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Pork Processing Slowed, But For Now Farmers Largely Spared From Euthanizing Their Pigs

Pork processing fell nearly 40 percent following temporary closures at meatpacking plants across the Midwest last month. That’s created a backlog of market-ready hogs, though the scope of the problem isn’t as dramatic as some had feared.

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courtesy of Hy-Vee

This pandemic spring has changed some pathways of getting food to hungry people, but there’s still plenty being donated and distributed to meet the increased need.

West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee, with stores in eight states, often makes donations to food banks, says Christina Gayman, director of public relations. But right now, many of its suppliers have approached the chain for help distributing their surplus. 

John Paul Coonrod

 

John Paul Coonrod usually recognizes most of his customers. Lately, though, he says there have been a lot of unfamiliar faces at Great Scott! Community Market

The small grocery store opened in Winchester, Ill. last year in what was once an old shoe store. It stocks your standard dried goods, canned goods and craft beer and wine, and has a deli section in back. 

And since the start of the pandemic, the store has seen more business than ever.

A new agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture makes Iowa the seventh state where some small meat lockers can sell products in other states.

Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media file photo

At the start of 2020, the agricultural economy was poised for a good year. 

Then came COVID-19 and like almost every other sector, it tanked. But Chad Hart, an economist at Iowa State University, says that solid footing is still the foundation for an outlook that is not all doom and gloom.

Susan O'Shaughnessy / U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service

Both farmers and home gardeners may have trouble finding enough seeds to plant this spring, but while both are facing seed shortages, the causes are unrelated. 

More people are taking up gardening as orders to slow the spread of coronavirus are keeping them homebound. Companies that sell vegetable and other seeds to gardeners are reporting record demand. Meanwhile, farmers are facing a supply shortage of soybean and sorghum seeds. 

Preston Keres / U.S. Department of Agriculture

 

Meatpacking plants are starting to reopen after President Trump signed an executive order intended to prevent shortages.

Now, some county health officials are weighing in, and say they’re concerned plants in their areas weren’t closed long enough.

Grant Gerlock / Harvest Public Media

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to shore up the country’s meat production amid concerns about worker safety at meatpacking plants.

The order keeps beef, poultry and pork processors open by invoking the Defense Production Act.

Thousands of meatpacking workers across the country have contracted COVID-19, and plants in Iowa, South Dakota and Colorado have closed in response. The order says those closures not only threaten the supply chain but undermine critical infrastructure.

The ongoing pandemic has dealt another blow to the struggling ethanol industry. ADM, one of the country’s major grain companies and a big ethanol producer, will idle dry mills in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Columbus, Nebraska. 

The company informed the 180 people who work at the two locations Thursday that they will be furloughed.

Juanita Gryfinski

Lisa Marlow is worried about her students. Marlow is a school nurse and educator with the Murphysboro Community Unit School District 186. 

The district serves primarily low-income students in a rural part of southern Illinois. 

When school is in session, Marlow says having eyes on students, especially those with chronic conditions like Type 1 diabetes or asthma, is crucial.

Smithfield Foods, one of the biggest meat producers in the country, is operating its plant in Milan, Missouri, "in a manner that contributies" to the spread of the coronavirus, according to a federal lawsuit filed Thursday in Kansas City.

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