Nebraska Cattlemen Applauds Action Letters to COVID-19 Task Force, and Packers
Nebraska Cattlemen (NC) staff and leadership, focused on finding solutions to help correct the market situation, applaud two letters the National Cattlemen Beef Association (NCBA) sent March 17th to top government and packing industry leaders.
The first letter went to U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as chair of the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. The letter asks that the Administration, in partnership with state and local leaders, take swift and proactive steps to minimize the negative consequences of COVID-19 and preserve the economic viability of the U.S. beef supply chain. Specifically, it asks for USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to expand the availability of low- and zero-interest loans in addition to increasing flexibility of terms for existing loans. Further, it requests FSA coordinate with USDA Rural Development and the Small Business Administration throughout the implementation of these accommodations.
Regarding transportation, the letter requests the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) emergency declaration and suspension of Hours of Service to extend to haulers transporting shipments of livestock feed, critically important animal health technologies, and trucks moving livestock to feedyards and packing facilities. This critical step will not only keep cattle haulers in business, but it is the only way to ensure movement across the entire beef supply chain during this challenging time.
Regarding cattle prices, and the increasing disparity between cattle and boxed beef prices, it requests that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) keep a close eye on the cattle markets to ensure that no one tries to use the uncertainty of the live cattle market to manipulate or illegally take advantage of the situation.
The letter explains that the U.S. cattle producers are no strangers to difficulties in the market created by factors outside of their control and believe they will recover from these dark days in due time. Cattle families feel the impact of this pandemic just like other families and will do their best to keep cattle healthy and to provide American families with safe, high-quality beef. Producers ask government leaders to work with them to keep the stream of commerce moving as efficiently as possible so that they may continue to keep store shelves stocked with beef for American consumers.
NC also supports the second letter, which was sent to the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), the trade organization representing packers. It asks that NAMI members be aggressive in the cash market and base their bids on the increased cutout value we see rather than the futures. This will help with market liquidity and transparency, thus helping bring some stability back to the cattle markets. Second, it asks packers to participate in the weekly Fed Cattle Exchange to provide further confidence to the producer segment of our industry by providing transparency and price discovery. The letter also asks that NAMI actively communicate your actions with NCBA and allow us to communicate those actions to the full beef community.
The letter to NAMI states NCBA will continue to work with USDA to ensure it provides the inspectors and graders to keep the beef supply moving. Any plant shutdown or slowdown will further compound the economic impact on feeders, stockers, and cow/calf producers. NCBA will also help to fight any attempt to restrict interstate commerce that would impact the flow of cattle and beef.
About the calls for action, Nebraska Cattlemen President Ken Herz said NC staff and leadership remain committed to members. “Please know we are working diligently to find solutions to the current situation while keeping our long-term focus on improving market transparency and reducing market volatility. We will continue to keep you up to date as more information becomes available.”