Member Alert: March 19, 2020
It goes without saying that the coronavirus pandemic has created much uncertainty and stress in our markets, our industry and our world. In just a few short weeks, the cattle price situation and our lives have dramatically changed as our communities, state and nation deal with the situation at hand. It’s like a movie. A bad, bad movie.
The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association (NDSA) recognizes the caliber of the challenges our members are facing and has been working to communicate that message to decision-makers and do all that it can to help minimize disruptions in our industry. The organization has also committed to helping consumers understand the benefits of beef in a healthy diet and in fortifying immune systems.
As you know, this is an unprecedented and very fluid situation, with changes happening minute to minute. Know that we have been and will continue to be working to return the industry to normalcy as quickly as possible. We will also do our best to share what we know with you.
Be safe, be well and take care of yourselves and your families.
Following are some short updates on various coronavirus-related topics:
The NDSA and a coalition of ag groups are reaching out to President Trump in a joint letter this week, asking him to be mindful, as the Administration makes decisions, of the incredible challenges agriculture faces in this uncertain time and the role our industry plays in ensuring food security for our nation and the world.
The NDSA has also visited with the Congressional delegation offices regarding proposed stimulus/relief packages to support cattle producers. Many ideas are being floated and discussed now, ranging from a general stimulus package, an enhanced Market Facilitation Program that would include the livestock sector, enhanced disaster assistance programs and others. We have also relayed concerns by some members about seasonal and temporary labor shortages given H2A delays.
Additional outreach to federal agencies aims to urge a committed effort to minimize market disruption and ensure the safety of our food supply. This includes ensuring that employees of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) are prepared to work as efficiently as possible and be given an appropriate amount of flexibility to maximize plant capacity and shift time to avoid any disruptions at processing facilities. Dr. Mindy Brashears, USDA deputy undersecretary for food safety, and Greg Ibach, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, issued this joint statement:https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDAAMS/bulletins/281851c
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission has also been engaged to keep a close eye on the cattle markets and to guard against those who try to use the uncertainty of the live cattle market to manipulate or illegally take advantage of this situation. CME_Emergency_Declaration_2__2.jpg
The NDSA will be meeting with auction markets owners later this week. Several markets have already opted to limit sale attendance to buyers and sellers only and/or have encouraged the utilization of online options for bidding and viewing. NDSA brand inspectors continue to report to work to carry out their statutory responsibilities and to do their part in preventing marketing disruptions for producers. Similarly, the NDSA headquarters office in Bismarck remains open for business, serving members and other livestock producers. The NDSA will be compiling and distributing information about any sale cancellations or procedural changes if those occur.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to assist those in need of seasonal or temporary agriculture labor as routine visa services have been suspended at the consulates in Mexico, South Africa and Jamaica due to the coronavirus situation. Monitoring and updates are available on https://www.farmers.gov/manage/h2a. Those with concerns regarding the ability of seasonal or temporary agriculture labor to obtain an H2A visa should contact USDA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Canadian and Mexican borders have been closed to non-essential travelers. We have been told that this will not impact trade, however. We will continue to monitor this to make sure that trade keeps flowing. Interestingly, beef exports are up 20 percent.
Hours of service
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has exempted livestock haulers from compliance with federal Hours of Service rules that limit drive time until at least April 12. Drivers wishing to haul under this exemption are suggested to print out and keep in their cab a copy of the Expanded Emergency Declaration. A copy of the declaration is available at https://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/sites/fmcsa.dot.gov/files/2020-03/EXPANDED%20EMERGENCY%20DECLARATION%20UNDER%2049%20CFR%20§%20390.23%20No.%202020-002.pdf?mc_cid=90b2d00460&mc_eid=71ed33d6dc. The Expanded Emergency Declaration provides relief to those drivers hauling “food” and “immediate precursor raw materials … that are required and to be used for the manufacture of … food.” All livestock movement fits these exemption definitions. Once the driver has returned to their “normal reporting location,” the driver must still receive a minimum of 10 hours off duty to rest. Truck weight waivers are also being considered, but have not been granted at this time.
The health and well-being of our members are priorities of our organization. Here is a link to the North Dakota Department of Health’s coronavirus resources, including information about symptoms, testing and slowing the spread of the virus: https://www.health.nd.gov/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/coronavirus-public
Mental health resources
The current coronavirus situation and a culmination of other factors have certainly made this a stressful time for many farm and ranch families across North Dakota. Know that you are not alone. If you need someone to talk to, call a friend or a neighbor, our office (701-223-2522) or 211, a statewide 24-hour crisis intervention, health and human services information and referral line.
Beef for a healthy immune system
Consumers searching to bolster their immune systems can turn to beef to get key nutrients. Carolyn Williams, Ph.D., R.D., wrote in an article for Allrecipes, “Here's why I consider [lean beef] a top food to support immune health: a 4-ounce serving of flank steak provides more than half of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc, selenium and vitamin B6. Getting adequate intake of these three nutrients can be challenging, and a slight deficiency of any may impair your immune system from working at 100 percent efficiency. This can increase your susceptibility to illness and lower your immune defense capacity.” For more information about beef nutrition, visithttps://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/nutrition/beef-nutrients. For recipe ideas perfect for at-home meals, direct consumers to https://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/recipes.
The beef checkoff has developed a Frequently Asked Questions fact sheet regarding the coronavirus and the beef industry. It answers questions about human-animal disease interface, antibiotics use, bovine coronavirus and industry best management practices. The fact sheet can be viewed athttps://www.beefitswhatsfordinner.com/newsroom/covid-19-faqs.