For the Week Ending April 17, 2020

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The impact of COVID-19 has caused hog values to plummet, creating a financial disaster for pork producers nationwide who face a collective $5 billion loss for the remainder of the year. At a press briefing on Tuesday, NPPC outlined the crisis and the immediate relief needed from the administration and Congress. “We remain committed to supplying Americans with high-quality U.S. pork, but face a dire situation that threatens the livelihoods of thousands of farm families,” said NPPC President Howard “A.V.” Roth. “We are taking on water fast. Immediate action is imperative, or a lot of hog farms will go under.” NPPC, in consultation with hog farmers across the nation, identified several measures it has raised with federal policy makers, including 1) $1 billion in pork purchases by the USDA to clear out a backed-up meat supply, supplementing agency food bank programs facing increased demand due to rising unemployment and 2) direct payments to producers. NPPC is also seeking a legislative fix to emergency loan programs that have left farmers behind and is urging Congress to increase the cap on qualifying businesses to those that employee up to 1,500 and to make agricultural businesses eligible for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The NPPC press briefing was attended by 90 journalists and received widespread media coverage. The USDA is expected to shortly announce purchases of agriculture commodities for food banks. “We want to purchase as much of this milk, or other protein products, hams and pork products, and move them into where they can be utilized in our food banks, or possibly even into international humanitarian aid,” Secretary Perdue said on Fox Business this week. 


Thirty-one lawmakers, led by South Dakota Sen. John Thune (R) and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R), wrote to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on Thursday, urging the agency to take immediate action assist U.S. pork producers and maintain the pork food supply chain amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “To assist pork producers during this difficult time, we request that USDA conduct pork purchases and provide financial assistance to producers. We request that assistance be provided in an equitable manner that recognizes the various challenges pork producers are facing due to COVID-19 and limits market distortions,” the letter explained. In the event that farmers are unable to harvest their hogs, the lawmakers also asked Perdue to use existing authorities and available funds to compensate producers for their losses. A copy of the letter is available here. The letter echoes NPPC calls for USDA pork purchases and equitable, direct payments to producers without eligibility requirements.  


On Thursday, the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it had exhausted funds recently appropriated by Congress for the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). The program had been an important lifeline for producers and NPPC will continue to advocate to replenish funds for the program. SBA will not accept PPP loan applications now that maximum programing funds have been reached. This means lenders will no longer be able to load PPP applications into the Capital Access Financial System (CAFS). SBA is unable to maintain a queue for PPP applications. Further, PPP loan amounts may not be adjusted by lenders within the CAFS system and SBA will no longer be able to accept new lender applications to become PPP lenders. It is reaching out to the lending community to make them aware of this development and SBA will continue to inform its lending partners of new updates should Congress authorize additional funds.


On Wednesday, Britain and the European Union agreed on dates for three, week-long negotiations to discuss a post-Brexit deal. The first week of negotiations, to be conducted via video conference, begins next week, on April 20, followed by the week of May 11 and then the week of June 1. Britain is seeking a new trade deal with the EU after having left at the end of January. Meantime, in October 2018, the Trump administration announced its intention to negotiate a trade agreement with the U.K. NPPC is supportive of negotiations, provided the agreement eliminates tariff and non-tariff trade barriers on pork.