WASHINGTON — Members of the US cattle industry announced efforts to keep production moving as the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread around the country.

Brooke Miller, DVM, president of the United States Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), sent a letter to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on March 16, encouraging the establishment of safeguards to protect the financial interests of beef supply chain stakeholders and the US cattle market.

“The actions that federal, state, and local government – along with private entities – are making to control the spread of the outbreak are the right decisions,” Miller said. “We must continue to ‘flatten the curve’ to protect our loved ones at greater risk of contracting the virus.

“However, producers’ bottom lines are suffering due to the effect the outbreak has had on the cattle and beef industries. We must act expeditiously to return normalcy to the cattle marketplace.”

Miller said the USDA Commodity Credit Corp. could provide the needed programs and funding to address these rare and tumultuous incidents.

“USCA has created a special task force to address the market fallout as a result of the coronavirus,” Miller concluded. “These are uneasy times, but cattle producers can rest assured that the industry will get through this. This is the second major market disruption and producers need to know that work is underway to ensure the future is both stable and profitable. We will overcome and continue to produce a healthy and abundant food supply while simultaneously serving as stewards of the environment and ensuring a thriving rural and national economy.”

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) released a statement on the potential impact COVID-19 could have on the beef supply chain.

“At this time, it’s impossible to measure the full effects of the virus or determine how it may continue to unfold,” said Colin Woodall, chief executive officer of NCBA. “Although the full beef supply chain is being challenged by the outbreak, all segments of the industry are working closely together and must continue to do so. The current uncertainty facing beef producers is shared by all of agriculture and every American. By working together, we will overcome these obstacles.”

Woodall said the association is in daily communication with all sectors of the beef supply chain.

“We’re working closely with cow-calf producers, stocker operators and feedlots,” he continued. “We’re also communicating regularly with packing sector participants, restaurant and retail operations. Every one of these operations is facing unique challenges and many shared burdens. As we continue to work through this crisis, we must do everything in our power to safeguard every sector of the business from disruption while ensuring cattle and beef continue to move in an orderly manner.”

NCBA is also working with Congress, the USDA and other regulatory agencies to remove possible barriers for beef production.

The USDA released a statement to the industry on March 16 from Mindy Brashears, the USDA deputy undersecretary for food safety, and Greg Ibach, USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs, regarding the market reactions to the coronavirus.

“In this time of much uncertainty, we know that many of you have questions about how the department will continue to ensure that grading and inspection personnel are available,” Brashears and Ibach said in the joint statement. “We have all seen how consumers have reacted to the evolving coronavirus situation and how important access to food is to a sense of safety and well-being. It is more important than ever that we assure the American public that government and industry will take all steps necessary to ensure continued access to safe and wholesome USDA-inspected products.”