Today’s quick hits, June 16, 2020

U.S. meat exports to China hit record in April (New York Times): While raising concerns about U.S. meat shortages and lobbying the White House to keep meatpacking plants open, these same companies sent a record amount of pork to China.

Iowa tries ‘ag gag’ for third time (Des Moines Register): Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that says anyone present in a food operation without permission is trespassing and can face up to two years in prison in what foes say is an attempt to prevent animal rights activists, whistleblowers and other from documenting activities on industrial farms.

Behind coronavirus in rural America (Daily Yonder): Rural counties with the highest rates of coronavirus infections are home to meatpacking plants, prisons or proportionally large numbers of minority group members.

Interim chief at Pilgrim’s Pride (Pilgrim’s Pride): The board of directors appointed Fabio Sandri, chief financial officer since 2011, as interim chief executive of the chicken processing company while Jayson Penn takes a paid leave of absence to defend himself from a federal indictment on price fixing charges.

Call for early grazing (Sen. Thune): Two dozen senators and representatives asked the USDA to allow haying and grazing from Sept. 1 of cover crops that are planted on so-called prevent-plant land, rather than the usual Nov. 1 start date, to assure forage for livestock backed up on farms because of coronavirus slowdowns at packing plants.

No state fairs in Illinois (Chicago Sun-Times): Gov. J.B. Pritzker cancelled the Illinois State Fair, held in Springfield, and the DuQuoin State Fair in southern Illinois as a precaution against the coronavirus.

Preserving Willa Cather country (Omaha World-Herald): Nearly two square miles of never-plowed prairie near Red Cloud, Nebraska, will be put into a conservation easement, helping to preserve a portion of the prairie that inspired author Willa Cather.