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Articles from 2020 In April

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, April 30, 2020

Mortgage interest rates fell again, to the lowest level on record. 

Drought is almost non-existant across the heartland of America. 

Authorities in Kentucky say four children died and one is missing after an Amish buggy was swept away in a flood current.

Bars may be closed, but beer is still selling; in fact, sales have gotten a boost during the pandemic.


Midwest House members request more aid for U.S. pork producers

National Pork Board A payment will be issued on 50 percent of the producer’s total production, multiplied by the MFP rate of $8 per head.

On Thurday Representatives Tom Emmer (MN-06), Jim Hagedorn (MN-01), Dusty Johnson (SD-AL), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Vicky Hartzler (MO-04) and 48 additional members sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting improvements to pork producer aid offered by the USDA Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. Additionally, the letter requests support by opening up existing programs for pork producers. 

The supply chain for pork producers is increasingly strained due to the ramifications of the COVID-19 outbreak. Pork processing plants and other foodservice industry closures across the country have reduced processing capacity by hundreds of thousands of hogs per day, and slashed prices by over 33%. The aid producers are projected to receive under CFAP is not commensurate with losses incurred, and additional rules are imposed that could limit the benefits of the program to the agriculture community.

"Pork producers are in the midst of a crisis," says Emmer. "By no fault of their own, they are feeling the impact of a slowdown in the foodservice industry and supply chain disruptions due to plant closures. I applaud all of the Administration's recent efforts to support the agriculture community. However, more must be done to help our producers facing these dire situations. Now more than ever, they need our immediate attention and assistance."

"Our pork, beef and poultry producers are stepping up to meet their critical role in maintaining America's food supply, even during this pause in our economy that has created historically low demand and commodity prices." says Hagedorn. "Congress and the USDA must work together to fund key programs to reimburse farmers - who are on the brink due to no fault of their own - and sustain agriculture and our rural way of life. We appreciate our farmers, processors, truckers, grocery store folks and all who keep America fed with an array of quality choices at affordable prices."

"Our pork producers have been forced to take drastic measures because of COVID-19," says Johnson. "Most Americans can't comprehend the economic and emotional toll. Congress and USDA need to figure out a solution swiftly, otherwise, our supply chain can expect dire consequences down the road."

"I've always said that rural and urban America have a symbiotic relationship. They benefit one another and neither can survive without the other," says Cleaver. "Pork producers have always done their best to help American families keep food on the table—and now, in their time of need, Congress cannot fail to reciprocate that support."

"The drastic shift in demand and closure of meatpacking plants due to the coronavirus has put substantial stress on our hog farmers' supply chain," says Hartzler. "As consumers, we sometimes forget all the steps that take place between the farm and the table and these disruptions have put many of our farmers and ranchers in a terrible place. Our supply chain can and will adapt yet adapting takes time and farmers cannot wait as they are trying to move thousands of hogs. Additional resources from the Department of Agriculture will be critical to helping the American farmer survive and be able to continue supplying plenty of safe domestic food products for the American people."

"As a result of COVID-19 challenges, U.S. pork producers are in dire straits through no fault of their own. Industry economists conservatively estimate that hog farmers will lose a collective $5 billion for the remainder of the year. All pork producers are hurting and immediate action is imperative," says National Pork Producers Council President Howard "A.V" Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wis. "The USDA aid package does not begin to address the losses incurred by producers and many generational family farms will go bankrupt without immediate financial aid with no payment limitations. We thank Reps. Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.) and Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) for helping ensure U.S. pork producers continue to provide an uninterrupted supply of affordable, high-quality protein to America’s kitchens."

Source: Office of U.S. Representative Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), which is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Iowa launches Resource Coordination Center to help pork producers

National Pork Board nhf-npb-iowa-pig-barn.jpg

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has formed a Resource Coordination Center to support Iowa livestock producers affected by the COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. COVID-19 outbreaks in the workforce are causing many meat processing facilities to run below normal operating capacity. That's creating challenges for producers who are trying to convert livestock to food products.

"COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of our lives, including our food supply chain," says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. "This is creating numerous challenges for producers and forcing them to make unimaginable decisions. We want producers to know they're not alone. We have assembled a team of people who are here to connect producers with information and resources as they work through this difficult time." 

The Department is collaborating with public and private partners to operate the RCC, including the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Iowa Pork Industry Center and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

"We have pulled together some of the best resources in the state to help those Iowa pig farmers working through difficult circumstances. Decisions that will be made in the coming weeks must be the solution that can work best for individual farm situations. We encourage those farmers to call in with questions or go to the website to look at the resources available," says Mike Paustian, IPPA president and a pig farmer from Walcott.

"The creation of the RCC will allow both public and private organizations to mobilize their resources efficiently and effectively to help pork producers make well-informed decisions during this extremely difficult time," says Jay Harmon, associate dean for extension and outreach for ISU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and director for agriculture and natural resources extension and outreach at Iowa State.

Through the RCC, livestock industry experts, state agencies and technical specialists will help producers explore every option to harvest livestock and meet the protein needs of Iowans. The RCC will also connect producers with technical resources as they work through difficult and emotional decisions, including animal welfare euthanasia and disposal.

Iowa livestock producers can call the RCC at 515-725-1005, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., or fill out a help form anytime at

COVID-19 has caused supply chain disruptions that are forcing producers to make emotional and stressful decisions. If producers are feeling overwhelmed, they can call the Iowa Concern Hotline at 800-447-1985 to get free, confidential support, 24/7.

Source: Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, which is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Hybrid rye instead of corn does not impede nursery pig growth

National Pork Board Nursery pigs eating at a feeder

Production of hybrid rye in North America is increasing since its introduction to Canada in 2014 and the United States in 2016. Hybrid rye's ability to out-yield and survive environmental stress better than other small grains makes it a great crop to add in a rotation. Hybrid rye can also be particularly valuable for farms in the outskirts of the Corn Belt where sandier, drier soils may prevent maximum corn yield. Although the current market for hybrid rye is quite small relative to other crops, recently conducted research supports the notion that it is suitable feed ingredient for pigs in North America.

Compared with corn, hybrid rye contains similar amounts of digestible amino acids, a greater concentration of digestible phosphorus and approximately 94% of the metabolizable energy in corn. Hybrid rye also contains more fermentable dietary fiber than corn, which has the potential to improve gut health. At the same time though, the question if the elevated indigestible protein compromises the health of the large intestine of nursery pigs needed to be addressed. Therefore, two experiments were conducted to determine the maximum amount of hybrid rye that can be included in diets for weanling pigs without influencing growth or diarrhea incidence.

In the first experiment, 160 pigs were allotted on the day of weaning (approximately 20 days of age) to five dietary treatments. Diets were formulated so that the inclusion rate of hybrid rye in each diet increased at the expense of corn alone, and therefore, dietary energy decreased as rye inclusion increased. (Table 1). The pigs were fed in a five-week, three-phase feeding program, and the proportion of rye in the diet was stepped up in each subsequent phase. Results demonstrated that there were no differences in body weight nor average daily gain at any point during the experiment (Table 3).

University of IllinoisTable 1: Cereal grain inclusion rates in experimental diets for nursery pigs in Experiment 1

Table 1: Cereal grain inclusion rates in experimental diets for nursery pigs in Experiment 1

During Phase 3, a quadratic response was observed for average daily feed intake, because pigs fed diets with 100% hybrid rye replacement for corn consumed the most feed. The observed increase in feed intake was likely a result of the lower energy in hybrid rye compared with corn. Consequently, feed efficiency in Phase 3 and overall was also reduced (quadratic effect). Diarrhea incidence decreased with 6% and 9% hybrid rye inclusion in Phase 1, but no other differences were observed for the incidence of diarrhea during the experiment.

Based on these results, a second experiment was conducted to determine if greater inclusion rates of hybrid rye could be fed after weaning without causing a depression in growth (Table 2). Four dietary treatments were tested in the second experiment, and weanling pigs were again fed for five weeks in a three-phase feeding program. Results indicated that there was an increase in ADG in Phase 1 as the inclusion of hybrid rye increased, but there were no other differences in body weights or ADG during the experiment (Table 3).

University of IllinoisTable 2: Cereal grain inclusion rates in experimental diets for nursery pigs in Experiment 2

Table 2: Cereal grain inclusion rates in experimental diets for nursery pigs in Experiment 2

University of IllinoisTable 3: Overall growth performance of nursery pigs fed increasing levels of hybrid rye for five weeks after weaning.

Table 3: Overall growth performance of nursery pigs fed increasing levels of hybrid rye for five weeks after weaning.

Feed intake increased during Phase 1, Phase 3 and overall as hybrid rye was added to the diets. Thus, G:F was negatively impacted by inclusion of hybrid rye in the diet. No differences in average fecal scores nor diarrhea incidence were observed, but it should be noted that both groups of nursery pigs were of high health status. More prominent effects of hybrid rye may be elicited when pigs are raised under the increased stress of commercial conditions.

Based on the results from the two experiments it is concluded that nursery pigs can tolerate up to 24%, 48% and 60% hybrid rye in phase 1, 2 and 3 diets, respectively, without exhibiting any reduction in growth. As hybrid rye is added to diets, pigs consume more feed, likely as a result of hybrid rye's reduced metabolizable energy compared with corn, so G:F is expected to be reduced when nursery pigs are fed hybrid rye.

In the first experiment, inclusion of hybrid rye at up to 9% in Phase 1 nursery diets appeared to have a positive effect on reducing diarrhea, but there were no observable differences in fecal scores or diarrhea incidence in the second experiment. Overall, feeding hybrid rye to these nursery pigs did not cause any problems in terms of observed health and growth performance.

Sources: Molly McGhee and Hans H. Stein, who are solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly own the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Tyson Foods increases benefits, protections for frontline workers

Joe Raedle/Staff/GettyImagesNews In this photo illustration, Tyson Food and Hillshire Brands food products are seen on May 29, 2014

As part of ongoing efforts to support frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Tyson Foods, Inc. is doubling bonuses, increasing short-term disability coverage and is also implementing additional health screening measures.

The company is now offering $120 million in "thank you bonuses" for 116,000 U.S. frontline workers and truckers, up from the $60 million announced in early April. The company is moving up the first $500 bonus payment to early May. The second $500 bonus will be paid in July. Team members who cannot come to work due to illness or childcare will continue to qualify, but bonus eligibility will depend on attendance.

Tyson Foods is also increasing short-term disability coverage to 90% of normal pay until June 30, 2020, for team members who are unable to work due to illness. It is another way of encouraging team members to stay home when they are sick. 

In addition, the company, which has been checking worker temperatures, will now also take the following measures: 

  • Screen workers for additional symptoms, such as coughing and shortness of breath
  • Have designated monitors at each facility to help enforce social distancing
  • Require the use of company-provided surgical-style face coverings

"This pandemic is ever-evolving, and the decision to make these changes reflects our desire to continuously explore new ways of supporting our team members through this crisis," says Mary Oleksiuk, executive vice president and chief human resources officer for Tyson Foods. "The safety and well-being of our people is our top priority as we work together to fulfill our critical role of feeding people across the country." 

Tyson Foods had already waived the waiting period to qualify for short-term disability, so workers are immediately paid if they get sick with COVID-19 or flu like symptoms. In addition, it has: 

  • Waived the co-pay, co-insurance and deductible for doctor visits for COVID-19 testing as well as eliminating pre-approval or preauthorization steps
  • Waived co-pays for the use of telemedicine through Doctor On Demand
  • Relaxed refill limits for 30-day prescriptions of maintenance medication 

Tyson Foods formed a coronavirus task force in January and has implemented numerous measures to protect workers. The company’s efforts have included:

  • Taking worker temperatures and is installing more than 150 infrared walkthrough temperature scanners in its facilities
  • Seeking a supply of face coverings before the CDC recommended their use and now requires them in company facilities
  • Doing additional deep cleaning and sanitizing in company facilities
  • Implementing social distancing measures, such as installing workstation dividers and providing more breakroom space, including outdoor tents 
  • Relaxing its attendance policy to encourage workers to stay at home when they're sick
Source: Tyson Foods, which is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

Merck Animal Health launches spray-on biosecurity solution


Merck Animal Health has launched a new EPA registered bacteriostatic spray-on antimicrobial solution for use on structures and physical components in a variety of livestock production, equine and companion animal biosecurity situations. When used in conjunction with cleaning and disinfecting protocols, Armatrex – a silane quaternary ammonium salt – provides a protective coating against the growth of bacteria, fungi, mold and algae. 

"Biosecurity and animal wellbeing are top concerns for consumers and producers. Controlling pathogens on surfaces that animals are exposed to is a key part of a holistic biosecurity and animal health program," says Justin Welsh, D.V.M., executive director of food animal technical services for Merck Animal Health. "Armatrex joins a long list of products from Merck Animal Health focused on prevention of disease. Preventing disease and protecting animals from exposure to pathogens enhances their wellbeing."

Armatrex, as part of a pathogen control protocol, provides up to 90 days of antimicrobial protection and can be safely used in many live animal settings and on a variety of surfaces. From livestock operations, veterinary clinics, kennels, laboratories and zoos to farm vehicles and delivery trucks, Armatrex can fit any operation's biosecurity needs.

"Armatrex creates an invisible and durable barrier against a broad spectrum of gram positive and gram negative bacteria, fungi and viruses," explains Welsh. "It provides protection while reducing surface deterioration or microbiologically-induced corrosion."

The ready-to-use formulation does not require mixing or measuring. The electrostatic technology provides a uniform coverage of treated surfaces. Armatrex can be applied with a variety of equipment. It does not cause microbial adaptation, resistance or mutation.

Armatrex can be purchased in 1 gallon, 5 gallon or 55 gallon presentations from Merck Animal Health or its distributors.

Source: Merck Animal Health, which is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

MORNING Midwest Digest, April 30, 2020

How many of you need a haircut? As states relax restrictions, salons will be busy. But bars will continue to stay closed.

The IRS isn't handling paper tax returns right now.

The meat packing plant in Worthington, Minn., opened yesterday, but with a minimial amount of employees, and only for euthanization.

Folks are finding new ways to worship; one church held a drive-in-service this week.

Chalk artwork in Kansas City, Mo., is on display, drawn by Hallmark artists.

Farm Progress America, April 30, 2020

Max Armstrong shares news that the United States is importing meat from Namibia. Max offers his take on this news as the U.S. industry is undergoing significant challenges. He shares that more countries are exporting beef cuts to into the U.S.

Farm Progress America is a daily look at key issues in agriculture. It is produced and presented by Max Armstrong, veteran farm broadcaster and host of This Week in Agribusiness.

Photo: camij/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Defense Production Act good news, but worker safety comes first

Getty Images/iStockphoto Illustration of arrows converging
President Trump's implementation of the Defense Production Act to reopen stalled meat production plants is a big step in the right direction, but plenty of work remains before all plants are open to full capacity.

President Trump's signing of the executive order using the Defense Production Act to reopen stalled meat production plants was met with great applause across the U.S. pork industry. This action does not, however, mean that hogs will immediately be heading toward processing plants.

Yes, the pork industry wants nothing more than being able to get market hogs to these plants to turn them into safe, nutritious and affordable food for American consumers, but the health of workers in the plants needs to be a top priority. On Sunday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a guidance to be implemented in meat processing plants. The guidance includes measures such as testing, temperature checks, face coverings and social distancing of employees where possible, among other measures. A press release from the North American Meat Institute says many of its members are raising pay, offering bonuses, providing paid sick leave and increasing health benefits to plant employees.

NAMI President and CEO Julie Anna Potts responds to Trump's action, "By keeping meat and poultry producers operating, the President's Executive Order will help avert hardship for agricultural producers and keep safe, affordable food on the tables of American families. The safety of the heroic men and women working in the meat and poultry industry is the first priority. And as it is assured, facilities should be allowed to re-open. We are grateful to the president for acting to protect our nation’s food supply chain.”

Collin Peterson, U.S. Representative and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, hosted a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Worthington, Minn., the site of the JBS pork plant that suspended operations on April 20 to help limit the community spread of COVID-19 after a number of plant workers had contracted the virus.

JBA USA issued a press release Wednesday announcing that the Worthington plant will have a limited reopening to " provide producers with a humane euthanasia option for market hogs during the coronavirus pandemic."

Euthanasia is the last resort decision that no hog producer wishes to make. Hog producers are in business to raise livestock to end up on consumers plates, not to raise them to maturity only to have to put them down. Plant closures and slow-downs are forcing these decisions upon some producers as the pork supply chain's bottleneck chokes on itself.

"None of us want to euthanize hogs, but our producers are facing a terrible, unprecedented situation," Bob Krebs, president of JBS USA Pork, says in the JBS press release. “We will do everything in our power to work with the state of Minnesota to responsibly reopen our facility as soon as possible in support of producers who desperately require a more viable option for their hogs.”

During the press conference, which was also attended by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, Peterson says, "We're not going to force them (meat plants) open unless it's safe for the workers."

According to the JBS press release, "Under the limited reopening, a reduced staff of approximately 10 to 20 team members will facilitate and manage the humane euthanasia process in partnership with federal, state and local veterinary officials. The company anticipates that approximately 13,000 hogs could be euthanized per day. Hog carcasses will be rendered, sent to landfills, composted or buried."

When in full operation, the Worthington JBS facility employs more than 2,000 and processes 20,000 hogs per day. The release also says the "remaining team members will continue to adhere to the governor’s stay at home order until normal operations can resume. The company continues to pay its team members during the plant closure."

While local, state and federal health officials work through the details of getting the pork supply back into full operation, may organizations stepped up to get behind Trump's action.

National Pork Producers Council President Howard "A.V." Roth, a hog producer from Wauzeka, Wis., says "We are thankful for the support extended by our federal, state and local government leaders. As we all work together to protect workers and the nation's food supply, we need uniform and consistent solutions and all available resources to address this unprecedented crisis. We thank President Trump for taking this step."

Roth goes on to stress the importance to "safely stabilize the current plant capacity challenge and overcome other major hurdles facing the nation's pork production system, one that employs 550,000 workers and generates $23 billion in personal income across rural America."

With limited options to market their hogs, producers have seen hog values plummet, and "hog farmers are facing liquidation of their farms and other assets without immediate relief, including expanded financial aid without payment limitations," Roth says.

"While getting pork packing plants back online is foundational, the tragic reality is that millions of hogs can't enter the food supply. We need coordinated partnership between the industry and federal, state and local authorities to euthanize pigs in an orderly, ethical and safe way."

The U.S. Meat export Federation is quick to point out that the impact of U.S. meat plant closings does not stop at our shores.

USMEF President and CEO Dan Halstrom says, in a statement, "The executive order will help ensure a steady, reliable supply of high-quality U.S. protein — not only for customers in the United States, but across the globe. The U.S. meat industry is already taking extraordinary steps to ensure worker safety, including COVID-19 testing, temperature checks, use of personal protective equipment and social distancing of employees. But further action is needed to stabilize our meat supply chain, and USMEF greatly appreciates the Trump administration's prioritization of safe and consistent meat production and processing during this difficult time. The executive order comes as welcome news not only to consumers but also to U.S. livestock producers, who have endured severe economic hardship as a result of this pandemic."

As I said at the beginning, President Trump's executive order does not flip the "on" switch for these closed plants, nor does it solve all of the current pork industry problems, as echoed in a statement by Indiana Pork Executive Director Josh Trenary, "If plants can process our animals while keeping workers safe, that is a step in the right direction for the plants, pork farmers and consumers. However, with the severity of the backups of pigs on farms across the country, there is still much more work to be done to alleviate the strain on our farmers and their animals."

Much more work to do, but as Trenary says, we're stepping in the right direction.

MIDDAY Midwest Digest, Apri 29, 2020

Michigan police stopped a driver speeding at 110 mph over the speed limit.

Mead industry experts aren't sure if the president's order to keep processing plants open will help much.

People in Wichita, Kan., are mourning the loss of a local radio broadcaster, Don Hall.

Next week is the 50th anniversary of the Kent State University incident when four students died.