The COVID-19 pandemic could cost the meat industry billions of dollars, according to a new study.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) commissioned the study, which was led by a team of agricultural economists. It estimated the beef cattle industry would lose $13.6 billion due to total economic damage as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
The study shows the pandemic will likely impact cattle producers the hardest. The cow-calf sector could lose $8.1 billion, including $3.7 billion in direct revenue.
“This study confirms that cattle producers have suffered massive economic damage as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak and those losses will continue to mount for years to come, driving many producers to the brink of collapse and beyond if relief funds aren’t made available soon,” NCBA’s CEO Colin Woodall said in a release.
He added: “This study also clearly illustrates the fact that while the relief funds provided by Congress were a good first step, there remains a massive need for more funding to be allocated as soon as members of Congress reconvene.”
Trump Administration Approves COVID-19 Bailout
The study was commissioned to help the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determine how to best allocate Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act relief funds to cattle producers.
The Trump administration recently announced a multi-billion dollar bailout for the meat and dairy industries. The administration said it plans on purchasing nearly $16 billion worth of unsold meat and milk products from U.S. farmers. Farmers are struggling to make ends meet during the pandemic.
The bailout uses some of the USDA’s remaining funds and a portion of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill to support the agricultural industry.
COVID-19 Forces US Slaughterhouse Closures
The novel coronavirus outbreak forced a number of U.S. slaughterhouses to suspend operations. But in April, Trump signed an executive order to keep meat processing plants open.
Tyson Foods closed its largest pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa for two weeks. It is now reopening. Before it’s closure, it was forced to slow production. Many of the plant’s 2,800 workers called out of work due to the outbreak. Ninety percent of the county’s confirmed coronavirus cases have been linked to the plant.
Tyson also closed its Columbus Junction, Iowa plant after two employees died as a result of the outbreak, the facility has also since reopened.
Cargill Ltd., Smithfield Food Inc., National Beef Packing Co., JBS, and Empire Kosher Poultry Inc. were also forced to slow production or suspend operations due to the pandemic. Many have now resumed operations, or are trying to reopen.
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