Coronavirus hits already struggling Texas farmers and ranchers

Business

BURNET COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — Coronavirus has hit U.S. farmers and ranchers hard — to the point where they’ve stopped saying “it can’t get worse.”

Burnet County ranchers are seeing those hard-hitting effects by the day.

Auction sales are down significantly at the Lampasas Cattle Auction, according to auction owner Andy Baumeister.

“It’s a tricky, tricky, crazy game,” said Baumeister. “Tuesday from 4 to 5 p.m. — the pins would be full.”

It’s Tuesday, and the pins at Beumeister’s yard aren’t even near full.

On a typical Wednesday, Baumeister says nearly 500 head of cattle are auctioned off. In recent days, that number has been cut in half or less.

The price per cattle has also taken a significant hit.

“The price has fallen by nearly $150. One day the futures are up, the next day the futures are down.”

Part of the problem is restaurants who are barely getting by with take-out service, who aren’t buying as much meat.

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The Texas Retailers Association says meat is a grocery store staple, and that supply chain is safe and strong. Baumeister says the biggest problem lies with the packing houses.

“There are six major packing houses. Two of those have shut down. If a couple more of those shut down due to the coronavirus, then what are they going to do with the cattle they have standing around? They can’t buy too many because they’re going to have to stand around and feed them before they can get them processed.”

  • Looking at every available avenue to provide relief to producers reeling from the low live cattle prices
  • Working with USDA, SBA and other agencies to ensure producers can access tools like low-interest forgivable loans
  • Encouraging USDA to continue investigating the disparity between live cattle prices and beef cutout prices
  • Looking at solutions to speculation within the cattle futures market and its impact on live cattle prices
  • Working with USDA on assistance funding for cattle producers impacted by the market losses
  • Working with all segments of the industry and regulators to keep the supply chain moving so the situation does not worsen

Until then, Baumeister is bracing for what’s next.

U.S. livestock producers are urging the department of agriculture to delay payments for government loans. The Texas Southeastern Cattle Raisers Association says the USDA is working on assistance funding, along with other things.

“Every time we get to gaining a little ground, we lose everything,” said Baumeister. “I guess I could say if it was an upswing, then this would be the icing on the cake. It’s not. It’s the total opposite.”

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