We all recognize the unprecedented year 2020 was for everyone, especially Mississippi’s farmers and ranchers. While all of agriculture felt the impacts of COVID-19, the pandemic affected the livestock industry, in particular, extremely hard. In my position, I work on federal legislative issues for all commodities recognized by MFBF.  During the pandemic and the months following the initial outbreak, Farm Bureau has truly gone to bat for the livestock sectors of Mississippi agriculture and their needs.

COVID Assistance for Contract Poultry Growers

Farm Bureau began conversations in May 2020 with the poultry industry and congressional leaders to bring about needed assistance to contract poultry producers.   After months of ongoing efforts, Congress approved an appropriation measure in late December, which allocated assistance to poultry farmers for losses from COVID-19. In terms of policy, that support was historical and much needed. I would like to send a special thanks to the offices of U.S. Senators Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Chris Coons (D-DE) for their help is making this support possible.

COVID Assistance for Beef Cattle Producers

The beef cattle industry was one of the most impacted sectors of agriculture from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many producers who sold their cattle from March to June saw major swings in the market, ultimately providing them with major losses for their farming operations. MFBF and the Mississippi Cattlemen’s Association worked hand in hand to convey the need for federal support to our congressional delegation. Ultimately, that effort led to allocation of federal resources to the cow/calf operator that sustained those losses in the spring and early summer of 2020.

Beef Market Transparency Studies & Legislation

Following the market swings from the Kansas plant fire in 2019 and the unusual movements in the markets during the initial phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American Farm Bureau Federation commissioned a beef cattle market working group to look at the market and what policy items could be addressed to bring better price transparency to the industry.  MFBF President Mike McCormick was appointed to this prestigious group. Ultimately, the working group developed a set of recommendations and MFBF worked diligently to get these price transparency recommendations placed in AFBF policy. This new policy aligned AFBF to support the Cattle Transparency Act of 2021, introduced by U.S. Senators Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Ron Wyden (D-OR). This bill focuses on ensuring robust regionally negotiated cash trade and providing producers with more pricing information. We look forward to seeing this legislation signed into law.

To sum it up, livestock producers truly benefited from the strength of Farm Bureau on the issues that impacted their livelihood in 2020.  Farm Bureau is proud to represent our state’s hard working poultry and cattle farmers!

Justin Ferguson is the Federal Affairs Coordinator at the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.