pandemic

Few dairy farmers seek bird flu funds from USDA

Only a handful of U.S. farms — 18 in all — are accepting federal funds to quash the outbreak of the H5N1 avian flu virus among dairy herds that began three months ago, according to the Agriculture Department. (No paywall)

H5N1 virus particles found in meat from dairy cow

Meat from a dairy cow sent to slaughter contained particles of the H5N1 avian influenza virus — the first such finding since the virus jumped to cattle from birds a few months ago, said the Agriculture Department. The USDA also confirmed infections in five additional herds — three in South Dakota and two in Colorado — raising the U.S. total to 63 herds in nine states.

USDA and HHS allot $199 million to quash bird flu threat to cattle and humans

The Biden administration poured $199 million into the fight against the H5N1 bird flu virus, which was identified in cattle for the first time seven weeks ago, a worrisome step closer to people. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said dairy farmers are eligible for up to $28,000 in USDA aid in three months to help eradicate the virus from their herds, and Health Secretary Xavier Becerra announced new funding among public health agencies to "test, treat, prevent" the virus from spreading.

CDC: Texas farmworker only person known to contract bird flu from cattle

At least 200 people have been monitored for possible exposure to the H5N1 bird flu virus and 30 people have been tested, but a dairy worker in Texas is the only person known to contract the disease from cattle, said the Centers for Disease Control. "No additional human cases have been detected" since bird flu was discovered for the first time in cattle six weeks ago.

USDA: Stronger biosecurity reduced spread of bird flu

Fewer than 900,000 birds in domestic flocks have died due to highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) this year, said the Agriculture Department in a review of bird flu outbreaks that date from February 2022.

Dairy farmers to get up to $200 million in USDA aid

The Biden administration expanded a pandemic relief program for dairy farmers on Monday to cover up to 9 million pounds of milk produced during the second half of 2020, up from the original 5 million pounds. The Agriculture Department also announced a new assistance program for organic dairy farmers, who face sharply higher feed expenses.

White House bolsters security for food and ag sector

The federal government will keep a closer eye on threats to the U.S. food supply, such as cyberattacks and pandemic diseases, under a national security memorandum signed by President Biden.

Food insecurity held steady overall in 2021, but decreased among families with children

About one in 10 American households was food insecure at some point in 2021, according to USDA data released on Wednesday — a slight, but not significant, decline from 2020 and 2019, when the rate was 10.5 percent. Food security among families with children improved in 2021, with 12.5 percent of households with kids food insecure, down from 14.8 percent in 2020.

Covid-19 exacerbated the food-waste problem. Here’s how some stakeholders adapted.

The Covid-19 pandemic made America’s food-waste problem worse, dramatically so in some cases, forcing the food sector to adapt and find creative ways to limit waste, according to an online panel discussion Tuesday hosted by ReFED, a nonprofit focused on ending waste across the food system. 

Food insecurity rises among disabled people, but solutions exist

Even before Covid-19 hit, disabled people were at greater risk of food insecurity because of higher rates of unemployment, lower earnings, and transportation and accessibility barriers. The pandemic only exacerbated these disparities. In 2020, disabled adults were twice as likely to be food insecure as adults without disabilities.

‘Spot market’ program aims pandemic aid at hog farmers

The government will send up to $50 million to hog farmers who were forced to sell hogs at pandemic-depressed prices on the spot market during the summer of 2020, said the Agriculture Department on Monday. The announcement came a month after the USDA said it was disbursing $270 million to contract growers of hogs and poultry through its Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative.

Demand for food aid stays high in second year of pandemic

The pandemic sent millions of Americans to food banks for help last year and the crush continues this year, said a food bank leader at a House hearing on USDA food donation programs on Wednesday. Feeding America, the largest food bank network in the nation, asked for a 45 percent funding increase for The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which buys U.S.-grown food and gives it to food banks to alleviate hunger.

Covid-19 is worst in persistently poor rural counties

Throughout the pandemic, the highest Covid-19 case rates and the lowest vaccination rates in the country have been found in persistently poor rural counties, the USDA said Wednesday in its annual Rural America at a Glance report. Those counties have also had low unemployment rates, suggesting residents continued to work despite the risk of infection by the coronavirus, said the report.

Leaders of all House committees call for hunger conference

In a letter to President Biden, the leaders of every House committee said on Wednesday that the pandemic had revealed the extent of hunger in America. "We call on you to convene a national conference on food, nutrition, hunger, and health ... to design a roadmap to end hunger in America by 2030," they wrote.

U.S. hunger rate is lowest since start of pandemic

After cresting at 13.7 percent at the end of 2020, the U.S. hunger rate is now the lowest, 7.8 percent, since the pandemic began in early 2020. Analysts say the expanded child tax credit, coronavirus relief programs and rebound from recession all helped. Among families with children, the hunger …

High prices, strong demand mean back-to-back records for U.S. ag exports

Propelled by the global economic recovery from the pandemic, U.S. farm exports will set back-to-back sales records this fiscal year and in the new year beginning on Oct. 1, the government forecast on Thursday. China would account for $1 of every $5 in exports during the two-year span, with annual purchases running more than $10 billion above its previous record, set in 2014.

Farmers’ markets survived 2020, but the Delta variant poses new challenges

Many vendors who sell at farmers' markets saw a huge boost in sales last year, even as markets themselves struggled with the higher overhead costs of pandemic safety measures. This season, the growing threat of the Delta variant looms over a market experience that was nearly back to normal, say market managers and advocates.

Gala reigns, Honeycrisp climbs on U.S. apple hit list

Gala, a relative newcomer, holds the No. 1 spot in U.S. apple production for the third year in a row, while Honeycrisp, described by one reviewer as "juicy and instantly refreshing," moved up a notch to No. 3, said the U.S. Apple Association on Thursday.

Big coronavirus increases in SNAP and farm spending

The food stamp program will cost $145 billion this year, more than double its pre-pandemic total, due to expansion to combat the pandemic, estimated the CBO in updating its budget outlook. Mandatory agricultural spending was forecast at $48 billion this year, an increase of $17 billion from 2020.

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