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Trump Orders Agriculture Secretary To Rush Help to Farmers

April 10, 2020 (EIRNS)—President Trump tweeted yesterday evening,

“I have directed @SecretarySonny [Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue] to expedite help to our farmers, especially to the smaller farmers who are hurting right now. I expect Secretary Purdue to use all of the funds and authorities at his disposal to make sure that our food supply is stable, strong, and safe. We will always be there for our Great Farmers, Cattlemen, Ranchers, and Producers!”

This can’t come too soon. What is at stake is food output capacity. On Wednesday, Perdue held a call with reporters, saying that various actions are now being reviewed.

The breakdown in U.S. food processing and shipping is worsening by the hour, hitting hard on perishables—meat, milk, and specialty crops (berries, tomatoes, etc.). Farmers are dumping milk, because they are offered such a low price, or have nowhere at all to ship their milk. Hog farmers are finding there is no packing plant open—about eight mega-slaughtering facilities have had to close (from Pennsylvania to Sioux Falls, South Dakota) because of COVID-19 hitting workers; specialty row crop producers in Florida and other states are forced to let their harvest rot in the fields; they lack labor or shipping or buyers. Prices to farmers are tanking.

Appeals to Washington have been fierce. On April 6, National Farmers Union President Rob Larew wrote a strong letter to Perdue, spelling out actions required. American Farm Bureau Federation head Zippy Duvall wrote to Perdue on April 7, urging that government action must be taken, because even “resilient” farmers and ranchers can’t hold on under the present conditions.

The CARES Act, signed on March 27, has in it $48.9 billion for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, for emergency action on farming and food during the pandemic. Sub-categories of that sum include $9.5 billion for “livestock, milk, and specialty crop” producers. Plus, $14 billion is for the CCC fund—Commodity Credit Corp. (set up in the 1930s). Perdue can initiate measures, as done in the wake of floods and other disasters, for livestock and crop indemnity to farmers. In addition, contingencies need to be activated to maintain meat processing (muster more workforce, with high pay and virus protection). Emergency measures for debt moratoria, no foreclosures, and related actions must be done for farmers.

In the meantime, the meat packer cartel (Tysons, Cargill, National Beef/Marfrig, JBS, and Smithfield/WH Holding) must be under stiff orders against gouging, and must be prosecuted for the huge profiteering crimes they are now charged with doing at the time of the national emergency declaration in March. This must be the prelude to full anti-trust legal actions.

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