Red meat production plunges 23 percent during April amid pandemic
U.S. meatpackers ran at roughly three-fourths capacity during April as outbreaks of the coronavirus forced some of the country’s largest meat plants to close temporarily, said the USDA on Thursday. Production is rebounding in May, but the risk of a resurgence of the virus hangs over the industry, said analysts.
USDA creates coronavirus loan guarantees for rural businesses and farmers
The Department of Agriculture said Thursday it would provide up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses and farmers meet their working capital needs during the pandemic. The new program is patterned on the USDA’s existing Business and Industry program but with a higher loan guarantee level and lower requirements for collateral.
USDA’s keep-it-open power extended to fruits and vegetables
The USDA and the FDA have agreed that the USDA can use its authority under the Defense Production Act to tell foodmakers, including fruit and vegetable processors, to operate during a coronavirus outbreak at their facilities. The directions could override decisions by state or local health officials.
Covid-19 looms over refugee camp on the U.S.-Mexico border
Since 2019, a crisis has been unfolding across the U.S.-Mexico border from Brownsville, Texas. About 2,000 refugees, largely from Central America, have been stranded in a riverside encampment, wholly dependent on humanitarian groups for food and other basic needs. Feeding them before Covid-19 was a daunting task for the aid groups, but the pandemic has made food delivery considerably more complicated.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
Progress on ‘phase one’ (USTR): China has taken a number of steps, including approving U.S. blueberries and barley for import and adding more U.S. facilities to its list of approved exporters, said trade officials in reporting progress on the “phase one” trade agreement.
Harder is ‘safe’ (Sabato’s Crystal Ball): First-term Rep. Josh Harder, a Democratic member of the House Agriculture Committee, is rated “safe” for reelection in California’s Central Valley because Republican nominee Ted Howze’s “candidacy is imploding over [a] history of indefensible social media posts.”
Hunger group pulls back (Devex): Oxfam International will withdraw from 18 countries and lay off one-third of its program staff due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has reduced its fundraising.
Roberts names new chief of staff (Roberts): Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts named Chad Tenpenny, his longtime state director, to run his staff, succeeding Jackie Cottrell, who is leaving after 18 years as Roberts’ chief of staff.
Active hurricane season predicted (NOAA): An above-normal hurricane season, from June 1 to Nov. 30, is forecast, with the potential for six to 10 hurricanes, including three to six major ones.