Tag Archives: COVID-19

This year has been stressful for everyone, but COVID-19 has caused excruciating issues for the pork industry. From market disruptions due to plant closures and decimation of the food-service sector, to pork producers having to make incredibly difficult decisions because of over-capacity, it’s been a year for the ages.

“Meat sales rocketed in the spring with panic-buying,” said Bill Even, CEO of the National Pork Board, during a keynote address at the recent 2020 U.S. Animal Health Association virtual annual meeting. “But as the restaurant industry was shutting down, the supply chain became out of balance. We ended up with a lot of product destined for food service that wasn’t packaged for sale at retail grocery.”

The Checkoff, along with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), quickly went to work to address industry concerns associated with COVID-19.

Common sense, collaborative response

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) established the National Incident Coordination Center in May. The Center provides “direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures due to COVID-19,” according to a USDA news release. “Going forward, APHIS’ Coordination Center, State Veterinarians, and other state officials will be assisting to help identify potential alternative markets if a producer is unable to move animals, and if necessary, advise and assist on depopulation and disposal methods.”

Additionally, APHIS said it would “mobilize and deploy assets of the National Veterinary Stockpile as needed and secure the services of contractors that can supply additional equipment, personnel, and services, much as it did during the large-scale Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza emergency in 2015.”

The USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) also “provided state-level technical assistance to producers and cost-share assistance under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), in line with program guidelines for disposal,” the release said.

“The Pork Checkoff was committed to doing everything possible to also assist in the response,” Even said, including:

 Resources for producers and states

 Representation of the industry to consumers

 Collaboration across the supply chain to address unprecedented market disruptions

“Our three main goals during the crisis were to: 1. Help processing plants continue to operate; 2. Help producers and states with emergency depopulation and disposal and; 3. Help protect pork’s image from farm to fork,” Even said.

Eye of the hurricane

The pork industry was in the eye of the hurricane, Even said, so action to help producers was swift and decisive. The Checkoff worked with state pork producer associations to keep members comprised of the situation by producing factual resources including 13 weekly webinars, a weekly e-newsletter, an online packing capacity map, and emergency depopulation and disposal field research, including 7 research projects totaling $240,000. In addition, the Checkoff provided state pork association support with reallocation of $3 million in Checkoff funds.

The Checkoff also worked closely with the North American Meat Institute to provide support for the packing industry, Even said. “We provided resources for [essential food worker] employees through public health expertise and created digital ads thanking food workers who were deployed during the pandemic,” Even said. “We invested $500,000 and had more than 20 million views in U.S. communities that had packing plants.”

“We turned on a dime and completely revamped our domestic marketing strategy, too,” he added. “Real-time research helped us re-direct our marketing programs by understanding consumer behavior, sentiment, and buying habits.”

Lessons learned

In June, Even and the Checkoff staff did an after-action review. “We realized we really weren’t prepared for large-scale emergency depopulation and disposal,” he said. More resources would be needed to respond efficiently and effectively if another crisis – like a foreign animal disease – were to enter the country.

“We learned farmer-led solutions worked best, and that more research is needed on viable emergency depopulation and disposal methods,” Even said. Knowledge gained from the COVID-19 pandemic will help the pork industry better prepare for an FAD, Even said. Important components include:

 Effective response plans with identified and available resources

 Validation of diagnostic tests and sampling methods finalized prior to an outbreak

 Effective vaccines on-the-ready and stockpiled

 Contact tracing to reduce the spread of disease

The feral swine issue must be addressed, too, Even said. It’s estimated there are more than 6 million feral swine in the U.S. “We saw what happened in Germany, where their pork industry lost more than one billion dollars in a 24-hour period when feral pigs tested positive for ASF,” he pointed out. “We have a little bit of a breather right now with international travel dropping off so significantly [in terms of an FAD being brought in through an illegal food product].

Regionalization benefits

An FAD would cause immediate closure of export markets, to the tune of an estimated $15 billion in losses to the pork industry over a 2-year period, according to Iowa State University economist Dermott Hayes. That number would rise to $50 billion in losses over 10 years. “The USDA is working on regionalization with our trade partners,” Even said. “Animal movement tracing is an important factor in regionalization with trade partners,” Even said. “USDA is working with major pork export markets to make sure a US regionalization plan would be recognized by key partners.”

Even said a web-based technology solution called AgView would provide a rapid, informed response – vital for containing an FAD outbreak. “It adds a new level of practical benefits to the Secure Pork Supply, and the software will provide near- real-time disease status to facilitate disease trace-back,” Even said. “With producer permission, AgView can quickly share with animal health officials the type and size of farms, animal movements, positive tracing and lab results. It integrates with database systems and an Excel upload option is available.”

“The voluntary program is funded by the Checkoff and USDA, and will be available at no cost to producers,” he added, noting the program is scheduled to launch around mid-November. “You’re always going to have some gaps because [the program] is not mandatory but we want to start with as many people as possible. By doing so, producers put themselves in a better position with animal health officials – if they can show their herd is ASF negative, they will likely be able to move pigs more quickly,” Even said.

Work in progress

Even said the industry will never be completely prepared because a plan can easily become obsolete over time, but the more knowledge gained from experiences like the COVID-19 pandemic, the more tools the industry has at its disposal to deal with an FMD or other unusual circumstance.

“Every month that goes by, we get a little better at hardening our defenses,” Even said. “COVID-19 has really shown us our strengths and weaknesses and we can’t back off. I was a volunteer firefighter for 17 years in my home town so I know how important it is to constantly ‘sharpen the saw’ and be prepared.”

Editor’s Note: The USAHA covers topics ranging from zoonotic diseases, to regulations, to specific diseases in cattle, horses, sheep, cervids, poultry and pigs, and much more. Leaders from government, industry and academia work alongside producers to find solutions to health issues that can help animal agriculture thrive.

The National Pork Producers Council calls for immediate relief for the nation’s hog farmers. U.S. hog farmers are facing $5 billion in collective pandemic-related losses this year following two challenging years due to trade retaliation.

NPPC President Howard AV Roth says, “We’ve lost hog farmers of all sizes due to the COVID pandemic and need additional relief to preserve a highly competitive pork production system.” Without further assistance, Roth says, “we will lose more hog farmers and see our farm sector consolidate.” Among the provisions NPPC is seeking, they include compensation for euthanized and donated hogs.

Additionally, the organization asks for modification of the Commodity Credit Corporation charter so a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding. The organization also seeks additional funds for direct payments to producers without restriction, and an extension of the Paycheck Protection Program with modifications to make it accessible to more producers. NPPC also calls for additional funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have appropriately assisted and shared resources with their public health partners.

Agriculture work sites, shared worker housing, and shared worker transportation vehicles present unique challenges for preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19. Consistent application of specific preparation, prevention, and management measures can help reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. The Agri-Safe Network has put together a webinar to help identify best practices in Covid-19 testing and contact training that will help agricultural producers identify strategies for responding on their farm. The CDC Covid-19 prevention guidance for agriculture will also be shared to assist employers in adopting recommendations to protect workers.

Objectives: At the end of the presentation, participants will be able to gain an understanding of:
– current CDC/OSHA guidelines for COVID-19 prevention in the agriculture industry
– airborne transmission characteristics of SARS-Cov-2
– the principles of testing for infectious diseases
– the difference between the various tests currently available for SARS-COV-2
– COVID19 contact tracing protocols

Register for the AgriSafe Webinar here… https://learning.agrisafe.org/products/lessons-learned-in-covid-19-prevention-efforts-among-agriculture-workers-and-employers.



The National Milk Producers Federation urges all dairy farmers to sign up for the Dairy Margin Coverage Program. Enrollment in the program administered by the Department of Agriculture opened Tuesday.

NMPF cites the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and the expectation of volatile dairy margins in the next year, in the need for DMC protection. NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern says, “Coronavirus-related volatility in dairy markets is expected to continue well into 2021, with DMC payments a possibility.” DMC, the main risk-protection tool for dairy farmers enacted in the 2018 farm bill, is designed to promote stable revenues and protect against financial catastrophe on some or all of a farmer’s milk.

Despite forecasts in late 2019 predicting that DMC assistance would not be needed by farmers in 2020, margins instead fell to their lowest levels in more than a decade in the first half of this year, triggering payments that kept many dairies afloat. NMPF says DMC coverage offers certainty in times of need, allowing for better financial planning and faster payment when necessary.

Pandemic-related disruptions have exposed underlying weaknesses in the food and farm system, according to the National Farmers Union. NFU President Rob Larew told the House Small Business Committee Wednesday during a hearing the need for significant structural reforms to protect farmers and consumers from similar disruptions in the future.

One of the primary contributors to supply chain delays and food shortages has been widespread corporation consolidation, particularly in the meat processing industry, Larew told the lawmakers. As a solution, Larew proposed policies that would stem the tide of consolidation and build out regional food infrastructure. NFU says another major problem is chronic oversupply. In recent months, restaurant closures and shifting demand has made matters worse, as Larew noted in his testimony.

Though pandemic aid has helped farmers withstand persistently low prices, “policy changes are needed to address the causes – rather than simply the symptoms – of a broken farm economy.” NFU proposes a supply management system that would balance farm production with consumer demand.

On Friday, the administration announced details of the new $14-billion-dollar Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP2, that will provide direct payments to farmers and ranchers to partially offset COVID-19-related losses for producers. American Farm Bureau Federation Chief Economist John Newton says the aid extends to new commodity categories…

A Market Intel analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation details the CFAP2 provisions, which provides nearly $14 billion in relief to farmers and ranchers suffering losses or increased cost after April 15, stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the $14 billion in CFAP2 support, USDA’s cost-benefit analysis estimates corn producers will receive $3.5 billion, or 25 percent of the total CFAP2 resources. Following corn, beef cattle producers are expected to receive $2.8 billion, or 20 percent of CFAP2 funding.

Dairy farmers are expected to receive $2 billion, or 14 percent of the available support. Hog producers are estimated to receive $1.7 billion or 12 percent of CFAP2. Soybean producers are estimated to receive $1.4 billion, or ten percent of the funds. Wheat, flat-rate crops, eggs and other commodities are expected to receive $2.5 billion, or 18 percent.


LINCOLN, NE. – The 13th Annual Nebraska Wind & Solar Conference scheduled for November 9-10, 2020, has been postponed due to COVID-19 based restrictions and health risks. The Planning Committee feels the face-to-face interaction and networking between participants and conference exhibitors and sponsors is an important component of the annual conference. “The safety of our participants and the need for our participants to freely visit with each other were the primary considerations,” said Conference Chair John Hansen.

The next annual Nebraska Wind & Solar Conference will be held on November 8-10, 2021, at the Lincoln Cornhusker Marriott.

The Planning Committee is also working to develop virtual outreach opportunities to share information about the issues and progress within the industry. “There are many exciting developments going on in both the wind and solar industries,” Conference Chairman John Hansen said.

The Planning Committee encourages everyone wanting more information on the wide range of issues facing wind and solar energy development to visit the Conference website at www.nebraskawsc.com. The website includes an extensive library of recent presentations from leading state and nationwide industry experts as well as past Conference presentations. Past expert presentations can be found under “Resources” and are organized by year and topic on the website. The Planning Committee urges you to take full advantage of the resources our website has to offer.

Details regarding virtual outreach and the 2021 Conference will be posted on the conference website as they develop. To sign-up for email updates, please visit the Conference website.

The Planning Committee thanks everyone for their past support and looks forward to seeing you next year.

MANHATTAN — A team of Kansas State University researchers is using a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — and an additional grant from the state of Kansas — to study how to effectively control the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, in the nation’s meat and poultry processing facilities.

The study “Translating SARS-CoV-2 Research Into Practical Solutions For The Meat And Poultry Processing Industry” seeks to protect meat plant workers and their surrounding communities from the spread of COVID-19. It involves researchers from K-State’s College of Veterinary Medicine and College of Agriculture.

As part of the study, $330,000 from the State of Kansas National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility Transition Fund will be used for research in K-State’s Biosecurity Research Institute, or BRI, at Pat Roberts Hall. The BRI is a high-containment research facility.

A key objective of the project will be verifying the effectiveness of many of the approved cleaners and sanitizers for inactivating SARS-CoV-2 during plant processing and sanitation operations.

“Nationally and internationally, many facilities that produce meat and poultry products have been temporarily closed because of COVID-19 outbreaks,” said A. Sally Davis, an assistant professor of experimental pathology in the College of Veterinary Medicine and project director of the K-State grant. “This has put a major strain on food production, limiting the amount of meat and poultry on grocery store shelves and disrupting food and feed supply chains across the globe. Research is necessary to understand why SARS-CoV-2 is such a problem in meat and poultry processing environments and how we can mitigate the problem.”

Davis said infections with SARS-CoV-2 are primarily thought to occur by exposure to infectious micro-droplets in the air and contaminated surfaces.

“We are investigating the conditions within meat and poultry processing environments, such as low temperatures, relative humidity, increased air movement and workers being in close proximity to one another, to help identify areas and surfaces that are at high risk for contamination and spread of infectious SARS-CoV-2,” Davis said.

The team will evaluate potential sources of exposure and determine the amount and the longevity of infectious virus that is present during and after meat processing and packaging activities. The team seeks to identify, develop, validate and deliver practical cleaning and disinfection strategies, plus develop mathematical models to predict and reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 exposure in meat and poultry processing facilities.

Joining Davis on the research team are food safety faculty from K-State’s Food Science Institute, including Randall Phebus, co-project director and professor of animal sciences and industry, and Jeanette Thurston, director of the Food Science Institute and co-investigator on the project. The project also will rely on input from an industry advisory board.

“Our advisory board will be regularly updated on research progress,” Thurston said. “We will communicate with them in real time to make sure we are on the right track with our research and recommendations, and ensure that our findings are rapidly deployed across the processing sector.”

The industry advisory board is composed of senior-level directors of food safety and plant operations at Hormel Foods, Smithfield Foods, National Beef Packing Company, Cargill Protein North America, JBS USA, Wayne Farms, Jennie-O Turkey Store, Tyson Fresh Meats and Costco Wholesale.

Collaborating with the K-State team are co-project directors from the University of Georgia poultry science department, Harsha Thippareddi and Manpreet Singh, who will provide extensive poultry experience and industry connections and lead the grant’s industry outreach efforts. Valentina Trinetta and Sara Gragg, food safety faculty from the Food Science Institute, are co-project directors. Co-investigator Anke Richter, a public health-focused operation research specialist at the Naval Postgraduate School, will lead the risk assessment driven by mathematical modeling. Co-investigators Yunjeong Kim and Erin Schirtzinger in the K-State College of Veterinary Medicine and the Food Science Institute’s Daniel Vega round out the project team.