COVID 19 Colors Most Topics These Days- Ethan Lane of NCBA Says Cattle Industry Survival Definitely IncludedTue, 28 Jul 2020 05:06:00 CDT
As cattle producers gather at the 2020 Cattle Industry Business Meeting in Denver this week, many of the issues they are dealing with have been shaped by COVID19. Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs for NCBA in Washington, D.C, says that cattle producers are watching the Congress closely this week as they attempt to pull together another stiumlus bill to address a wide range of problems caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Lane talked with Radio Oklahoma Ag Network at the font end of the week of meetings in Denver- and you can hear their conversation by clicking on the LISTEN BAR below.
While Congress has apparently earmarked several billion dollars for agriculture in this current effort- those dollars are a very small part of the bigger debate- and it's those bigger ticket items, as well as whether the measure will contain any sort of liability protection for companies and organizations from lawsuits stemming from the pandemic will determine whether the Senate and the House can agree on a deal ahead of the August recess.
The big issue for cattlemen that came out of the program crafted from earlier stimulus money- the CFAP or Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, is a date pulled out of the air by USDA- April 15th. Cattle producers who sold cattle this spring on or before April 15 were eligible for much higher levels of help(over a hundred dollars per head) versus the help came for those who sold cattle after April 15th ($33 per head). Lane tells Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays " Guys who sold cattle on the 16th took just as big of a beating as those who sold cattle on the 14th.:
Of the money that has been paid to cattle producers to date, Lane adds "One of our concerns off the bat was that they tightened down those restrictions too low- the pay out limitations and the dates kept too many producers who were seriously impacted from getting the kind of help they should have." He adds that it looks like the money spent to date versus what is still in the bank suggests that producers should certainly get their final 20% promised already and that the earllier tighter dates on cattle sales could be adjusted as well.
Of the new stimulus package- Lane hopes that Congress will be prescriptive of how they want USDA to spend this next round of help.
Another major issue that is very much pandemic impacted are the problems associated with the issue of price discovery in the cattle market. The recent USDA Investigative report on the spread between boxed beef and live cattle prices was focused on both the Holcomb, Kansas fire aftermath as well as the spring of 2020 pandemic disaster for cattle producers. Lane says that the NCBA has been working on these issues since even before both incidents- but they have brought into focus the urgency of finding solutions.
Finding solutions seems to be boiled down to either making a fundamental change in the policy of NCBA and its predecessor organizations- call for government mandates on price discovery or continue to keep government at arm's length in telling the market how cattle can change hands. The price spread between boxed beef and live cattle was 67 dollars at the peak after the Holcomb fire in 2019 while the price spread as $323 during the pandemic this spring,
Lane says that Live Cattle Market Task Force has been working for months on the issue of fair cattle markets and says "We have really focused on how we can make sure that our producers are getting what they deserve from that process and that comes down to leverage and price discovery."
States have brought multiple ideas to the table and the issue is coming to a boil at this meeting, with the policy direction of the organization likely to be set this during their Wednesday meeting. Hays has been told that it's going to be a close vote at this point. Ahead of that decision has been lots of hallway discussion as producers look at protecting alternative marketing programs that have helped the industry deliver a high quality great tasting product to consumers but has resulted in smaller and smaller numbers of cattle priced in the cash market.
Listen to Hays and Lane discuss these issues and more in their Monday afternoon conversation from the Gaylord Rockies in Denver- click on the LISTEN BAR below.
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