Certainly, a lot of focus is on the current COVID-19 pandemic, and the effects it is having on the agricultural sector. Even more attention is being paid to the effects specifically facing the meat industry. This is being watched by not only the producers but by the consumers. As plants shut down or slow down because of the virus, many people wonder how it will affect the food supply. However, this is just the latest in a string of challenges the industry has faced in the past months and years.
The challenges for the meat industry are at a high point. Packers have closed their doors, producers have nowhere to send their animals and are having to euthanize them, and consumers are spending more at the grocery store for their food products. This is all affecting the markets, which had seen enough pressure before this pandemic happened. CoBank analyst Will Sawyer says producers? losses are topping anything we have seen in years.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) did offer assistance to producers across the board, but Sawyer says it is nowhere near enough to offset the damage that is being done.
Lawmakers are asking the USDA to change up their formulas in calculating the assistance and meet the losses to the meat and dairy sector. Losses that are already in the tens of billions of dollars. Sawyer says President Trump?s executive order will help processors open back up or stay open. However, the problem now is going to be in finding labor.
Many plant workers are fearful for their health and safety despite the new guidelines being implemented. These guidelines are only voluntary. The promise of more testing and safety equipment is doing little to alleviate their fear. Last week, House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN 7th) said he was committed to helping the industry get up and running, but wanted workers to know that their safety was paramount to any other concerns.