Ag Policy Blog

Ag Groups Continue Pressing Concerns on COVID-19 Challenges

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Livestock trucks on break in Beaver, Okla. Among the issues raised by agricultural groups such as the American Farm Bureau and National Pork Producers Council, groups want to ensure that agricultural supply chains are included in the Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) emergency declaration to waive hours of service. (DTN file photo by Mary Kennedy)

The American Farm Bureau Federation on Wednesday sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue highlighting some concerns the group has right now with the government response and areas where USDA should remain vigilant to keep supply chains open and markets fair.

Noting that "Meatpacking plants, dairy processors, ethanol plants and other processing facilities all play vital roles in delivering the food and fuel Americans will continue to depend on in the long days ahead. Additional impacts could include access to seed, fertilizer and crop protection tools farmers need to grow a healthy crop."

AFBF also requested that the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) emergency declaration to waive hours of service for food transportation also be expanded for the "full agricultural supply chain." DTN's Mary Kennedy highlighted the emergency declaration in a column on Monday.…

The National Pork Producers Council also asked for "clarity" from DOT "that farms are part of the critical domestic infrastructure needed to produce the food that feeds America and the world. This clear designation ensures the uninterrupted supply of commercial feed and other production inputs to farms, as well as the transport of livestock from farm to market."

Regarding the markets, AFBF President Zippy Duvall stated in the letter concerns from livestock producers over market manipulation and he urged USDA to monitor the situation. On fresh produce, there also is concern about other countries "dumping" products in the U.S. "USDA should work with the appropriate federal agencies in ensuring U.S. farmers are not unfairly disadvantaged during this unique period,” Duvall wrote.

Duvall also reiterated the risk that farmers could face a shortage of workers under the State Department's announcement to suspend all new visa applications in to the U.S. from Mexico. AFBF noted farmers already face labor shortages and rely heavily on H-2A workers. AFBF sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on that situation as well.

NPPC also touched on that issue, citing that Mexico is an important source of labor for pork farmers and packing plants as well. NPPC reiterated concerns it raised last week about labor challenges.

"I want to underscore that our farms and plants are not in crisis today,” said NPPC President Howard “A.V.” Roth, a pork producer from Wauzeka, Wis. “Farmers are the foundation and heart of the food supply system. Hog farmers and others in the pork industry are doing their part to ensure American kitchens are well-stocked. But we are very concerned about the recent State Department announcement regarding consulates in Mexico and the implications for our operations."

NPPC also requested that Congress consider financial support for childcare of farmers and plant workers in any relief package.

Concerns about farm labor aren't restricted to the U.S. The Globe and Mail in Canada reported Quebec's largest agricultural group, the Union des Producteurs Agricoles, also is worried that a border shutdown will affect farmers there as well. Quebec brings in about 16,000 farm workers each year from Central America.…

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