In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, the USDA is ramping up two programs to assist farmers, ranchers and consumers. Last Saturday, President Trump announced that “Starting early next week, at my order, the USA will be purchasing, from our Farmers, Ranchers & Specialty Crop Growers, 3 Billion Dollars worth of Dairy, Meat & Produce for Food Lines & Kitchens. “FARMERS TO FAMILY FOOD BOX” Great news for all!” This program was first announced in late April, but details are still quite hazy about how all of the pieces will come together. According to the USDA, the agency will purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and cooked meat to be distributed to families in need. Participating farmers are required to box-up and deliver their own products to distributors and wholesalers, who will in turn, send per-approved boxes of these products to food banks, community and faith based organizations and other non-profits who pass them along to people in need. USDA purchases will amount to about $300 million per month allocated at $100 million each of fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products and meat.
The sign-up period for farmers and ranchers to apply for direct payments offered in the coronavirus relief program will start by the end of May, according to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. Payments will amount to $16 billion, with cattle producers receiving $5.1 billion of the total, row crop farmers getting almost $4 billion, and the rest being divided up among dairy producers and specialty crop growers. A USDA spokesperson said that details of this program will be announced later.
The Covid-19 virus outbreak is still affecting the flow of livestock from farms and feedlots to slaughter facilities. According to the Food and Environment Network, at least 51 meat industry workers have died, and more than 13,000 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past few weeks.
The Beef Alliance, an organization representing about 25% of the fed cattle supply in the U.S. is advocating a proposal to get USDA funding to place feedlot cattle on a maintenance diet for 75 days, which would hold cattle off the market until slaughter facilities get back on line later in the summer. The alliance includes cattle feeders from Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Texas and the Pacific Northwest. According to the Beef Alliance proposal, called a “Fed Cattle Set-Aside Program,” the plan would “alleviate the risk of massive economic collapse in the beef cattle industry.”
Asian hornets, nicknamed murder hornets have received a lot of attention in the popular press lately. At almost two inches long, the size of these critters is of concern, especially for people who are afraid of almost any flying insects, but their nickname refers to the damage they can do to honey bee colonies, not humans. According to Penn State University Extension, a group of 20 to 30 of these hornets can kill up to 25,000 honeybees in a few hours, but they’re not aggressive toward humans, and their sting isn’t any more harmful than other bees and wasps, unless someone is already allergic to bee or wasp stings.
Philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, Bad times have a scientific value, These are occasions a good learner would not miss.