Cattle group calls on USDA to address coronavirus impact
The United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) is calling on the USDA to take immediate steps to address the impact the coronavirus is having on the cattle market.
USCA board member and Nebraska cattle feeder Lee Reichmuth says developing a plan to keep packing plants up and running should be the top priority.
“The first thing we need to do is calm the markets down and put some kind of certainty in that the plants will run…in case an employee or employees get coronavirus, the last thing the industry needs at this present time is another plant to be closed,” Reichmuth says. “So we’ve reached out to USDA to look at that and kind of come up with a game plan if that were to happen and how they would navigate through that.”
USCA is also asking USDA to consider an MFP-type program for cattle producers.
“When you see Peter Navarro or Steve Mnuchin—people from the government—that talk about coming up with some kind of programs to help businesses and industries navigate through the effects of the coronavirus—as dire as the situation is for the cattle industry, it may be something we want to look at.”
Reichmuth says USDA should also step up its oversight of the cattle marketplace to prevent anti-competitive buying practices in the days and weeks ahead.
“When you have four packers that control 80 percent of the market, there needs to be a referee that really looks out for producers,” he says. “If we don’t change things rather quick, we’re going to have catastrophic bankruptcies with the industry.”