LINCOLN, NEB. – Nebraska Farm Bureau is asking U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to address four key areas to help deliver relief to Nebraska farms and ranches feeling pressure from the COVID-19 outbreak, which has shaken commodity markets and compounded preexisting financial challenges faced by farm and ranch families due to a multi-year decline in farm income. In a letter to Secretary Perdue dated April 9, Nebraska Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson made four specific asks of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) targeted to help farm and ranch families deal with the COVID-19 fallout.
“We continue to hear concerns about potential market manipulation particularly amongst our cow-calf producing members. As such we asked the secretary to work with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to ensure all laws are being rigorously followed,” said Nelson. “As we noted to the secretary following the fire at the beef plant in Kansas last year, any instance of market manipulation should be prosecuted swiftly and to the fullest extent of the law.”
Expedited rollout of financial support authorized by the federal CARES Act, including assurance that financial support be provided for pork and beef producers that do not typically fall under USDA programs, was also requested in the letter to Perdue.
“From pork producers who have seen the lowest prices in 17 years, to dairy producers who are dealing with upheaval in supply chains requiring them to dump milk, to corn producers watching with concern as ethanol plants idle or cut production, it’s important USDA moves quickly to roll out the financial support measures included in the CARES Act,” said Nelson.
Monitoring the needs of those in the food processing industry and providing flexibility to make any needed regulatory adjustments was also identified in the Farm Bureau letter.
“It’s critical food production facilities stay open and operational, for both consumers and agricultural producers. While stores around the country may see temporarily empty shelves, retailers remain confident the vast majority of food items will be available. While temporary supply shortages are problematic, long-term shortages would be of considerable concern,” said Nelson. “To that point, we asked USDA to explore haying and grazing of Conservation Reserve Program acres as a way to help mitigate possible hay shortages if it becomes necessary for producers to hold cattle longer due to packing plant operation disruptions.”
Nebraska Farm Bureau also asked Secretary Perdue to explore additional flexibilities, including authorization of loan restructuring and loan balance write-downs, for those who utilize USDA loan programs, as many who utilize USDA loans tend to be younger and potentially less likely to have equity or cash to draw from during these unprecedented times.
“Just as the CARES Act included additional lending opportunities through the Small Business Administration for businesses of all sizes, including agriculture, we asked USDA to explore ways to assist farmers and ranchers who are struggling or may be unable to make payments to their loans with USDA,” said Nelson.
“We appreciate all of USDAs efforts to work with farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as we all adjust to the unique situation and challenges presented by COVID-19,” said Nelson.
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.