New Cattle Legislation Introduced, WIC Waivers Extended

Sep 25, 2020  | 3 min  | Ep4606

According to Reuters, President Trump dropped plans to use $300 million in USDA funds to reimburse oil refiners shut out of their ethanol blending waivers.  The rural advocacy group Focus on Rural America criticized the current administration’s ethanol policy which in their words chooses big oil over farmers. As campaigns near the home stretch, calls for government accountability become more common.

John Torpy has more.  Producer contact: torpy@iowapbs.org  Twitter: @TVTorpy

A newly crafted bill in the Senate aims to help level the playing field for cattle producers.

The Cattle Market Transparency Act of 2020, introduced by Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer, a Republican, builds on the Packers and Stockyards Act by equipping producers with more leverage at the packing plant door. If adopted, the measure would require a minimum price to be paid by meatpackers on a certain percentage of cattle purchased from growers. That minimum would be set by USDA and based on the region where the cattle were delivered. To further increase transparency, the legislation also requires meatpackers to report a daily number of cattle delivered for processing over each of the previous 14 days. 

The legislation follows the release of a July 2020 USDA investigation into price manipulation by the four major meatpackers. In the spring of 2020, as the number of COVID-19 cases grew, packing plants were forced to temporarily close as workers came down with the virus. The short term closures created a bottleneck in the supply chain. A number of farm state legislators alleged the major meatpackers were using the opportunity to lower the amount paid to cattle producers while inflating consumer prices.

This week also saw an extension of COVID-19 waivers for participants in USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children or WIC. The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has extended the distribution of free and reduced meals through the 2020-2021 school year. The waivers also cover expansion of online SNAP purchases in an attempt to promote social distancing.

According to USDA data, roughly $3 billion has been spent in support of food banks through The Emergency Food Assistance Program. An additional $3 billion has been used for the Farmer to Families Food Box program. USDA officials report nearly 100 million boxes have been distributed under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The program creates a pool of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and meat products. Distributors package the products into family-sized boxes and transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, or other non-profits who serve those in need. 

The extension of WIC program waivers would have expired on September 30th.

For Market to Market, I’m John Torpy

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