The Trump administration just announced a multi-billion dollar bailout for the meat and dairy industries. It plans on buying nearly $16 billion worth of meat and milk from U.S. farmers struggling to stay afloat amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture unveiled plans on Monday to spend up to $15.5 billion for coronavirus farm aid. The meat and dairy industries have been hit hard by the current outbreak and have struggled to get their products to the market amid disruptions caused by COVID-19.
The administration’s bailout uses some remaining USDA funds and part of the $23.5 billion that Congress approved to support agriculture in a coronavirus stimulus bill last month.
Coronavirus Outbreak Forces Slaughterhouses To Close
Smithfield Food Inc. closed its Sioux Falls-based pork plant indefinitely after becoming the largest coronavirus hotspot in the country. Health officials reported 598 of the state’s 1,311 confirmed cases of COVID-19 are Smithfield plant workers.
Earlier this week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent a team to the pork plant to help assist with mitigation efforts. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken both urged the meat-processing plant to remain closed to ensure worker safety.
“As a critical infrastructure employer for the nation’s food supply chain and a major employer in Sioux Falls, it is crucial that Smithfield has a healthy workforce to ensure the continuity of operations to feed the nation,” the lawmakers said in a joint letter. “At the same time, employees need a healthy work environment.”
Tyson Foods and National Beef Packing also suspended operations in their Iowa meat-processing plants.
Dairy Industry Dumps Milk Amid Outbreak
Schools and restaurants across the U.S. closed in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Supermarkets enforced purchase limits on certain products like milk due to panic buying. A combination of these factors caused the demand for dairy products to sharply decline.
As a result, dairy farmers began dumping their milk supplies.
“We’re seeing a demand decrease of approximately 12 to 15 percent across the entire United States,” Jennifer Huson of the Dairy Farmers of America said during a dairy industry call this week—according to NBC News.
“And those demand changes are resulting in a lot of uncertainty,” she added.