As meat plants reopen, Iowa, South Dakota, Pennsylvania and Nebraska are coronavirus leaders

As many as 18 percent of workers in meat and poultry plants are infected with the coronavirus in Iowa and South Dakota, while Pennsylvania and Nebraska account for one-quarter of the Covid-19 cases nationwide, said CDC scientists and state public health officials. The CDC released the report as Smithfield Foods, one of the giants of the meat industry, began to reopen a hog plant that was a coronavirus hot spot three weeks ago.(No paywall)

Ranchers suit claims packers conspired to deflate beef prices

Last week, several Midwestern feedlot owners along with the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that dominant meatpackers conspired to depress cattle prices starting in 2015. The case argues that JBS, Tyson, Cargill, and National Beef strategically cut back on open market cattle bids, closed plants, and imported costly foreign cattle in order to force farmers to accept lower prices and manipulate spot market cattle values.(No paywall)

Appeals court sides with ranchers on Montana beef checkoff

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s 2017 injunction against the collection of the Montana state beef checkoff in a decision released Monday. The ruling supports ranchers’ claim that the state's beef checkoff program impinges on their First Amendment rights by obligating them to pay taxes to support “private speech.” As the case between the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) and the Department of Agriculture unfolds, it has greater implications for checkoff programs in other states. No paywall

Using CRISPR to create a ‘boys only’ cattle herd

One of the best-known scientists in the GMO world, Alison Van Eenennaam, “aims to create a bull that will father only male offspring” through a bit of gene editing with CRISPR, said MIT Technology Review.

Big Beef seeks to expand its tax on Oklahoma ranchers​

Big Ag is back on the offensive in Oklahoma, less than a year after voters defeated a bill that would have stripped the state’s residents of their ability to regulate corporate farming. The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association wants ranchers to pay an additional $1 tax per head of cattle sold in the state, and will hold a Nov. 1 vote on the tax for Oklahoma cattle producers. Family farm advocates say that much of the money collected under such checkoff taxes is funneled to private industry groups that use it to promote the interests of corporate agriculture over independent farmers.

More chain restaurants say ‘no antibiotics in chicken,’ not so fast on beef and pork

Fourteen of the top 25 restaurant chains in the United States are telling farmers to restrict the routine use of antibiotics in chickens, compared with nine a year ago, according to the annual Chain Reaction report. “While restaurant chains made great progress on chicken, the groups found that there were no new commitments to limit antibiotic use in beef and pork.”