House Subcommittee Calls on USDA to Assist Producers
In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday, House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa of California and Ranking Member David Rouzer of North Carolina, joined by Full Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway of Texas, and 17 other members, urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to assist American lamb and sheep producers impacted by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.
The letter follows closure of the nation’s second-largest processor – Mountain States Rosen – representing an estimated 20 percent of the nation’s processing capacity, and pushes USDA to help lamb and sheep farmers and ranchers find alternate processing and marketing options immediately.
“This closure … comes at a time when the sheep industry was already forecast to lose more than $350 million due to COVID-19-related market declines, and feedlots are already at peak capacity in many places,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. “We must do everything we can to support the families who make up the sheep industry in our states as they weather these significant and pressing challenges.”
“This pandemic continues to take a disproportionate toll on farmers and ranchers, and the impacts that even one processor closing has on the ability of lamb and sheep producers to get by in these tough times is something we can and should remedy,” said Costa. “USDA has the ability to aid these producers in finding other options for marketing and processing in a way that keeps these products flowing through the supply chain, and helps farm families get through this rough patch.”
“As we’ve seen throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, decreases in processing capacity have greatly impacted the entire livestock industry, and this closure will be no different. The economic impacts that America’s sheep raisers will feel as a result are yet another struggle they will have to overcome during an already trying time. It is imperative that we continue to explore all options to preserve and expand processing capacity for the lamb and sheep sector,” said Rouzer.
“The loss of processing capacity has only magnified the struggles and challenges facing lamb and sheep producers across the U.S.,” said Peterson. “We hope that Secretary Perdue will move quickly to address this pressing need and aid these producers in identifying and establishing more alternative processing options for U.S. lamb producers in both the short and long terms.”
“The closure of the second largest lamb and sheep processing facility in the country will have a ripple effect felt throughout the entire market. As America’s farmers and ranchers continue to feel the strain caused by COVID-19, it’s critical that we provide support to help them through this difficult period,” said Conaway.
Greeley Lamb Plant on Hold for 30 Days
Following lawmakers’ requests to the U.S. Department of Justice to open an investigation into the acquisition of the Mountain States Rosen lamb processing plant by JBS USA, the DOJ is said to have put a “stand-still” on the Greeley, Colo., plant.
Brad Boner, Chairmen of Mountain States Lamb Cooperative, told Northern Ag Network “they have not had any direct contact with the DOJ, but have heard from third-hand sources the stand-still will restrict JBS USA from doing anything with the plant for 30 days.” The order does not change the sale but will likely buy time for the DOJ to complete their investigation.
Boner backed that theory by stating “MSR is a defunct entity, but it [the Greeley facility] could possibly remain a lamb plant.”
Northern Ag Network reached out and received a quick response from Cameron Bruett, head of corporate affairs for JBS USA and Pilgrim’s.
“We officially acquired the facility last week,” said Bruett. “Given recent interest in the transaction, we agreed to not make any material changes to the facility for 30 days as a sign of good faith. During that time, the Department of Justice will have the opportunity to review any concerns raised. We welcome their review.”
Bruett added, “Last week, we also offered to lease back the facility to the former owners for 90 days to ensure continuity for local producers, but we were again informed this was unnecessary given the opening of a new lamb processing plant in the region this fall. This was our fourth offer to continue operating the facility as a lamb plant on behalf of producers.”
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Source: Northern Ag Network
Ag Groups Request CFAP Extension
A coalition of agricultural organizations called on Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today to extend the Aug. 28 deadline for applications to the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.
“To ensure all eligible producers receive CFAP support, the undersigned organizations respectfully request the department extend the sign-up deadline for CFAP. This will ensure FSA staff has adequate time to process all submitted applications and farmers have ample opportunities to enroll eligible commodities. At the same time, we strongly encourage you to increase producer and stakeholder engagement initiatives. While the Department has done a commendable job in reaching out to all affected parties, communication and outreach by FSA staff has likely been significantly impacted by the lack of face-to-face interactions; in addition, many producers eligible for CFAP may have had limited or no previous interaction with FSA staff. This latter fact likely impacted the estimates of CFAP eligibility and benefits distributed to impacted producers.
“We also encourage the department to announce second tranche payments and further review CFAP eligibility criteria including sales dates, second tranche payment rates and market contract eligibility, such as the definition of price risk and the inconsistency between interpretation of livestock sales, dairy sales and crop sales with respect to the use of futures or forward contracts.
“As flexible as an approach as possible should also be taken to the program, and any future support efforts, to ensure that producers can receive the full benefits to which they are entitled. When applying direct attribution to each operation, we request that you apply each owner’s share to the overall CFAP payment to which the entity is entitled, not to the payment limitation itself, in order to maximize the benefit afforded to operations of all sizes and avoid unfairly limiting support to certain farms based on ownership structure. In addition, we ask that you treat operations that are held in trust as corporations for purposes of determining eligible CFAP payments. Some dairy farmers in particular are organized in this manner, with multiple partners often included in one trust, and should not receive a reduced benefit on account of this unrelated business decision.”
Superior Farms Shares Commitment to Sheep Industry
Superior Farms is committed to protecting the base of American lamb consumers for our industry and are doing our part to ensure our industry’s continued growth.
We know many producers within our industry are concerned over the recent bankruptcy of Mountain States Rosen and the closing of its Greeley, Colo., plant. During this period, it’s important to remember that the American lamb industry is still strong and growing. It is vital that the most critical players in this supply chain – the hardworking ranchers, families and multigenerational operators raising their flocks, have a market for their lambs and a path to prosperity as we look to the future.
“We recognize the impact of the Mountain States Rosen bankruptcy and COVID-19 upon our industry,” said Superior Farms President and CEO Rick Stott. “While difficult in the short term, we are very optimistic that we can work through these challenges together to become a stronger industry that can increase the market share of American lamb and deliver a premium product to our consumers.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly impacted our industry with the loss of foodservice demand, consumer purchasing behaviors have shifted and are showing positive signs of increased consumption of American lamb through grocery retail. We are encouraged by the enthusiastic response from first-time consumers of American lamb who are returning to repeat those purchases. Through our consumer communication efforts, we continue to educate and inspire consumers to enjoy American lamb on a regular basis.
As the largest processor of American lamb, we are continuing to aggressively invest in our facilities in order to increase production capacity and throughput at our Dixon, Calif., and Denver, Colo., plants. The upgrades being made at these plants will significantly increase our retail processing capability. While the demand has stretched our production teams, we are working hard to provide a continuity of supply to existing retail and foodservice American lamb customers.
At Superior Farms, we want to do all we can to help American lamb producers achieve stability and certainty. Through livestock pricing programs and pioneering tools like Flock54 genetic testing, we strive to help producers maintain higher levels of efficiency and profitability. For our customers and consumers, we are dedicated to providing the best value through a superior eating experience and through innovative new products that make serving lamb delicious and easy. This is all done in the true spirit of partnership and to help cement a thriving future for all those who are part of the American lamb industry.
Source: Superior Farms
Archived Let’s Grow Webinar Now Available
The latest Let’s Grow Program-sponsored webinar took place earlier this week and is now available in archive form for those who might have missed the live presentation from Iowa State University’s Dr. Danelle Bickett-Weddle on Protecting the Flock From Highly Contagious Diseases: Resources in the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan.
As associate director of the Center for Food Security and Public Health at Iowa State, Dr. Bickett-Weddle worked with the American Sheep Industry Association to develop the new Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan for Continuity of Business in the event of a foot and mouth disease outbreak in the United States.
Click Here to access all of the archived Let’s Grow Program webinars.
South Dakota Extension Hires Two Sheep Specialists
The South Dakota Sheep Growers Association announced recently that Dr. Kelly Froehlich and Jaelyn Whaley will be joining South Dakota State University Extension this fall.
Froehlich will be joining the faculty at SDSU in Brookings, S.D., as the new extension sheep specialist beginning on Aug. 24, while Whaley will be joining the group at the SDSU West River Research and Extension Center in Rapid City as the new sheep extension field specialist. Her start date is Sept. 9.
Froehlich grew up in Grasston, Minn., on a hydroponic lettuce and tomato farm. She says she corrupted her parents to let her have a few sheep when she was 13. Now there is a flock of 90 registered Lincoln longwool ewes at her family’s home.
She holds bachelors degrees in animal science and agricultural education from the University of Minnesota, and a masters in dairy science from SDSU. The last few years she has been living in New Zealand pursing her Ph.D. in animal science at Lincoln University.
Originally from Northwest Colorado, Whaley grew up on a 100 head Suffolk/Hampshire operation raising club lambs and direct to consumer marketing grass fed lambs. She was active in both 4-H and FFA and still tries to stay involved with these youth development organizations.
After high school, Whaley attended Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo., where she obtained an associates degree in agriculture with a concentration in animal science. Between her two years at LCCC, she served as a Colorado State FFA Officer.
After community college, Whaley attended the University of Wyoming where she worked as an undergraduate research assistant on projects such as a rumen microbiome study and U.S. Sheep Experiment Station sire evaluation. It was during this time that she met Dr. Whit Stewart, who encouraged her to continue her education.
Upon completion of her bachelors degree in animal science, Whaley continued onto her masters of science degree at UW under Dr. Stewart and Dr. Warrie Means.
Her project – funded by American Lamb Board and the National Sheep Industry Improvement Center – is evaluating the effects of excessively finished lambs on the processing sector of the sheep industry. She will complete her masters in August.
Froehlich and Whaley are filling openings created by the retirements of Dave Ollila and Jeff Held.
Australian Wool Market Suffers Major Crash
The Australian wool market suffered severe losses this week. Sales resumed after the annual mid-year, three-week recess. As this was the first selling opportunity for nearly a month, quantities increased. There were 42,734 bales available to the trade – 7,502 more bales than the previous sale (Week 2).
As the market opened in the Eastern centers on the first day, it was immediately apparent that large price reductions were in the cards. The individual Micron Price Guides in the East fell by 110 to 173 cents with all types and descriptions affected. On the back of these losses, the AWEX Eastern Market Indicator fell by 101 cents. This was the largest daily fall in the EMI since August of last year. The EMI lost 8.9 percent for the day, which was the largest daily percentage fall in the EMI since 2003.
Prices continued to fall on the second day of selling, but at a less dramatic pace than was experienced on the first day. The MPGs in the East dropped by another 13 to 57 cents and the EMI lost another 27 cents. The EMI fell by 128 cents for the series, closing the week at 1,006 Australian cents. This was the sharpest weekly fall in the EMI since April (when it lost 155 cents). However, when viewed in percentage terms the EMI fell by 11.3 percent. This was the highest weekly fall since 1991, when the floor price was abolished and the EMI fell by 39.1 percent.
The large drop in price understandably pushed the passed-in rate up. Nationally, 30.1 percent of the offering failed to reach seller reserve. The skirtings followed a similar path to the fleece, prices were generally reduced by 80 to 120 cents. The crossbreds suffered losses of between 35 and 82 cents. When viewed in percentage terms these losses were similar to the Merino fleece. The national quantity reduces next week to 33,413 bales.
USDA Extends Deadlines, Defers Interest Due to COVID-19
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency announced on Wednesday it will authorize Approved Insurance Providers to extend deadlines for premium and administrative fee payments, defer the resulting interest accrual and allow other flexibilities to help farmers, ranchers and insurance providers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“USDA recognizes farmers and ranchers have been severely affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic this year and to help ease the burden on these folks, we are continuing to extend flexibility for producers,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “The flexibilities announced today support health and safety while also ensuring the federal crop insurance program continues to serve as a vital risk management tool.”
Farmers with crop insurance questions or needs should continue to contact their insurance agents about conducting business remotely (by telephone or email). More information can be found at farmers.gov/coronavirus. Crop insurance is sold and delivered solely through private insurance agents. A list of insurance agents is available online using the RMA Agent Locator. Learn more about crop insurance and the modern farm safety net at rma.usda.gov.
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