February 2, 2023


US roundtable addresses new farm bill, need to prepare for livestock disease outbreaks



Preparing for a variety of potential livestock disease outbreaks is high on the list of needs in a new US farm bill, as well as helping rural communities in the United States to build workforce housing and provide day care to attract workers.


Those were a couple of the topics discussed at a roundtable hosted by US Senator Amy Klobuchar's staff on January 31. About 30 members of crop and livestock associations, agribusiness and rural organisations attended the roundtable at Pioneer Bank in the US state of Minnesota.


Bird flu has had a major impact on chicken and turkey producers as have other disease outbreaks in hog facilities. Leaders of those producer groups said it's important to include robust funding and outbreak assistance in the next farm bill, including disease surveillance and ensuring there are federal stockpiles of vaccines.


Sam Ziegler, president of GreenSeam, said disease-related federal programmes should also keep in mind that rural communities might need help. He said livestock disease outbreaks don't just harm farmers but usually affect the rural communities as workers at animal-processing plants get laid off.


"The ripple effect from (agriculture) goes through every sector," he said.


Several people also brought up the need for the farm bill and other federal programmes to help rural communities to build more workforce housing and to provide more day care. Those two areas are key to helping get the workforce needed at livestock and farm businesses.


Chuck Ackman, outreach director for Klobuchar, said it's a topic they hear about in every community they visit. He said the problem doesn't just affect agribusiness but every business as they struggle to find employees.


Ackman said livestock-related businesses in particular also want the US government to find ways to allow for more migrant workers to come and work in the country.


The current five-year farm bill expires at the end of this year and hearings are underway on developing the next five-year bill, which covers a multitude of farm programmes as well as nutrition programmes for the low income and for school lunch programmes.


In a video presentation, Klobuchar said the six listening sessions her staff are holding around Minnesota "will help inform what I will fight for" in the farm bill.


She said she has several priorities for the next bill.


"Continuing key progress we made on commodities (programmes) to ensure there is a safety net" when commodity prices are low.


Klobuchar said the United States Department of Agriculture also needs to ensure its assistance programmes are flexible in dealing quickly with rural aid after extreme weather events.


Additionally, she said getting reliable high-speed internet to every rural resident is a priority.


"You need high-speed broadband for the kind of precision agriculture you are involved in," she remarked.


Several attendees said the crop insurance programmes in the current farm bill are working well and should be retained, and they also brought up the need to provide support for mental health programmes for farmers who need them.


- The Free Press

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