Red meat production plunges 23 percent during April amid pandemic

U.S. meatpackers ran at roughly three-fourths capacity during April as outbreaks of the coronavirus forced some of the country's largest meat plants to close temporarily, said the USDA on Thursday. Production is rebounding in May, but the risk of a resurgence of the virus hangs over the industry, said analysts. (No paywall)

Food Box purchases will precede coronavirus checks to farmers

Farmers and ranchers will begin signing up for $16 billion in coronavirus payments by the end of May if all goes according to plan, said a USDA spokesperson on Thursday. In that case, the payments would follow the USDA’s awarding of contracts for another part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, the Farmers to Families Food Box. (No paywall)

Iowa leaders ask federal indemnities for hog culling

Farmers across the nation may be forced to kill 700,000 hogs a week because of coronavirus closures and slowdowns at slaughter plants, said four Iowa leaders in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday. Led by Gov. Kim Reynolds, the elected officials asked for federal indemnities to help the farmers stay in business.

Coronavirus question: Spend more on food aid or farm aid?

Farmers and ranchers will need billions of dollars in coronavirus aid beyond the $16 billion in cash that USDA plans to disburse by June, 28 senators said in a letter to President Trump. At the same time, a band of university economists said USDA aid is weighted 4-to-1 toward producers and that the agency "should arguably show an equivalent amount of creativity to help the broader spectrum of struggling Americans with food needs."(No paywall)

As meat plants slow, U.S. will help growers kill livestock

The government offered to help livestock producers locate contractors skilled in killing herds or flocks of animals and to provide cost-share funding for their disposal because the coronavirus pandemic has shut down packing plants and reduced consumer demand. The National Pork Board held a webinar on Sunday that discussed step by step "emergency depopulation and disposal" of hogs.(No paywall)

Tyson suspends Iowa hog plant due to Covid-19

More than two dozen workers at a Tyson Foods pork plant were stricken with Covid-19, forcing the meatpacker to suspend operations at its mammoth plant in Columbus Junction in southeastern Iowa, the No. 1 hog state. Tyson Foods announced the shut-down on Monday as the coronavirus spread further …

Roberts: $9 billion for livestock producers

Out of the $23.5 billion earmarked for agriculture in the latest coronavirus relief package, "I think at least $9 billion will be going to livestock producers," said Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts on Wednesday.(No paywall)

Judge tells USDA to move quickly on organic livestock rule

The USDA admitted to flaws in the analysis it used to kill a regulation setting animal welfare standards for organic farms, and now faces a Sept. 8 deadline to publish a final rule with the updated cost-benefit analysis. “After these many efforts, the department should move quickly,” wrote U.S. district judge Rosemary Collyer granting voluntary remand to the USDA.

FDA: Coronavirus disrupts supply chain for U.S. animal drugs

Six firms are seeing disruptions in the supply chain because of Covid-19 that could lead to shortages of animal drugs for the U.S. market, said the FDA in an update. Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said USDA animal scientists are "looking for any kind of possibility, even vaccines, that may help" against the viral disease.

USDA proposes new criteria for fair play in livestock marketing

More than two years after killing an Obama-era proposal to make it easier for livestock producers to prove unfair treatment at the hands of meat processors, the Trump administration said it wants to use four criteria to determine whether packers give undue or unreasonable preference to one producer over another. The proposal was greeted by small-farm advocates as a small step forward while insisting that broader reform was needed.