WASHINGTON – The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the US Department of Agriculture plans to establish a National Incident Coordination Center to provide direct support to livestock producers who cannot move animals to market as a result of processing plant closures due to the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Several major meat processors, including Tyson Foods Inc., JBS USA and Smithfield Foods Inc., announced temporary plant closures as workers began testing positive for COVID-19. As a result, producers have had limited options for processing their animals. Some producers have been forced to cull animals.

“Going forward, APHIS’ Coordination Center, State Veterinarians, and other state officials will be assisting to help identify potential alternative markets if a producer is unable to move animals, and if necessary, advise and assist on depopulation and disposal methods,” the agency said.

“Additionally, APHIS will mobilize and deploy assets of the National Veterinary Stockpile as needed and secure the services of contractors that can supply additional equipment, personnel, and services, much as it did during the large-scale Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza emergency in 2015.”

Earlier this month, USDA announced plans to purchase and distribute up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat products. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) expects to procure an estimated $100 million per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100 million per month in a variety of dairy products and $100 million per month in meat products designated for food banks and other non-profits serving Americans in need.