LINCOLN, NEB. – Nebraska Farm Bureau (NEFB) is working closely with the Nebraska congressional delegation to address concerns related to how COVID-19 has impacted commodity/cattle markets, supply chain concerns, and the ability to get H-2A workers in agriculture.
“Unfortunately, market uncertainty has shook farm commodity markets at a time when those of us in production agriculture have experienced a multi-year decrease in overall farm income. From live cattle (down 25%), hogs (down 22%), soybeans (down 14%), corn (down 13%), and wheat (down 12%) to ethanol margins currently at negative 25 cents, from top to bottom, commodities are experiencing significant downward pressure,” Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said. “With these downward trends, we continue to hear concerns being expressed about potential market manipulation particularly amongst our cow/calf producing members. Farm Bureau has shared that concern with the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service as well as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) over the past several days,” he said.
Nebraska Farm Bureau is asking Congress to provide some level of stabilization payments to farmers and ranchers who have watched commodity markets drop.
“We’d also ask these payments be expanded to include cattle producers as they continue to bear much of the brunt of this market downturn. We also ask that Nebraska’s delegation keep in touch with the USDA, as well as the CFTC and ask that they continue to monitor the current market situation,” Nelson said.
While stores around the country continue to see temporarily empty shelves, retailers remain confident supplies of a vast majority of food items remain available. But there are still temporary supply shortages and there are concerns about long-term shortages as COVID-19 continues. NEFB is working to ensure that all our nation’s food processing facilities remain operational during this difficult time.
“As farmers prepare for this year’s planting season and cattle producers continue to work through calving, every effort should be made to ensure supplies of fertilizer, seed, crop protection products, feed, and animal health products remain readily available. While many have already purchased many of these items, we must ensure the supply of these product are available when needed,” Nelson said.
Another concern lies in the ethanol industry as ethanol producers have seen already thin margins disappear, slightly rebound, and then disappear again over the past week. This business is also vital to our state’s cattle industry as ethanol byproducts have become a near constant addition to feed rations. The shuttering of ethanol plants could have far reaching consequences for rural communities across the state.
“NEFB is asking Congress to work with USDA to ensure food production plants remain operational and provide any regulatory relief that might be needed should problems arise. While we absolutely appreciate the exemptions granted to livestock and crop haulers from federal Hours of Service regulations, the hauling of products such as fertilizer and livestock supplies should also be added to that list,” Nelson said. NEFB is also worried about the availability of H-2A farm workers. With the recent announcement by the State Department to suspend routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa services at the U.S Embassy in Mexico City and all U.S. consulates in Mexico until further notice, this is a concern for farmers and ranchers. Nebraska may not be as reliant as some states on the H-2A program, but farmers and ranchers across our country rely on this program to meet their labor needs. According to data compiled by the American Farm Bureau Federation, over 90 percent of the just under 300,000 H-2A workers in the United States came from Mexico. H2-A workers play a critical role in making sure farmers and ranchers get their products to the supply chain and to the grocery store.
“We would ask our Nebraska delegation to work with the administration to find an appropriate mechanism, either through an emergency waiver or some other means, to ensure that H-2A workers may continue to safely come to America’s farms and ranches,” Nelson said.
The toll COVID-19 is taking on our nation’s health care system, small businesses, and overall economy has been profound. NEFB hopes by working with Nebraska delegation and taking aforementioned actions in order to limit the impacts on our nation’s food supply will directly help Nebraska farm and ranch families.
The Nebraska Farm Bureau is a grassroots, state-wide organization dedicated to supporting farm and ranch families and working for the benefit of all Nebraskans through a wide variety of educational, service and advocacy efforts. More than 58,000 families across Nebraska are Farm Bureau members, working together to achieve rural and urban prosperity as agriculture is a key fuel to Nebraska’s economy. For more information about Nebraska Farm Bureau and agriculture, visit www.nefb.org.