Agriculture

agThis playbook provides guidelines for agricultural operations in Ottumwa and Wapello County including farms, processing facilities and their suppliers.

Current Impacts

Purchasing and Sales

The slowdown or shutdown of hog, cattle, turkey and layer processing plants has broken the links in the interdependent supply chain between farms, grain processors, feed mills, animal feeding operations, harvest facilities, distributions channels, retail or institutional users and consumers. The current broken links have had a ripple effect throughout related industries such as food supply, feed energy, feed ingredients, etc. In Iowa, the suspension of activity among supply chain actors has halved the availability of feed ingredients.

Meat Production Supply Chain

Closed or disrupted facilities have led to a 33% decline in production, meat shortages and livestock euthanization. In Iowa, around 20% of animals and products have been euthanized and land applied. Hog producers are culling their herds as the result of a 40% drop in pork processing capacity. Hen and poultry placement in the layer and turkey business has fallen by 20%. Beef cattle can be sent to pasture if pasture is available, but they will need to be processed in the near future.

Fuel Requirement Suspension

Iowa suspended the ASTM Class [D-4] requirements and extends the ASTM Class [E-5] requirements for gasoline in the state of Iowa from May 1 through May 20, 2020.

Reduced Demand for Ethanol

A combination of sharply lower crude oil prices and a widespread decline in consumer fuel demand has gutted ethanol demand to the point at which many ethanol refiners have slowed or stopped operations. The fall in demand for ethanol has interrupted the trade of vegetable oils as ingredients and eliminated the availability of ethanol by-products used for feed.

Seasonality

Farmers must take advantage of the planting window. Area producers report that they are moving forward on their regular schedule, but taking steps such as limiting in-person meetings with suppliers and requesting contactless deliveries.

Future Trends

Shifting Global Trade

On the one hand, row crops, small grains and even vegetables could see new demand abroad as global trade partners change the pace at which they make major purchases. Importing countries are looking at increasing inventories over the coming year, which is expected to increase global trade of rice and wheat in the next year. Global buyers may look to the U.S. for reliable supplies of some items, such as soybean meal as they reopen and restock.

On the other hand, as a result of disruptions to global food supply chains, many countries, including the U.S., will attempt to institute a “produce and sell locally” strategy to prevent the over-reliance on brittle supply chains. Locally, there will be a move towards a more distributed system, as opposed to mega-processing plants that force a local market to rely heavily on foreign trade.

Implications of Plant Closings on Animals

Millions of animals could be euthanized due to plants closing. Until operations are able to stabilize again at full capacity, shortages of pork, eggs and turkey are possible due to the disruptions in supply.

Decreasing Oil Prices

The economic hardship caused by the novel coronavirus and the resulting cutback in the demand for gasoline could eventually result in an 8 billion gallon drop in national ethanol production this year which would reduce demand for corn by 2.7 billion bushels.

Recommended Practices

Health & Sanitation

  • Conduct a health screening with all employees before their shifts in accordance with the most up to date recommendations from the local public health department.
  • Require employees who feel sick to stay home. Employees who may have been exposed to a person with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should take precautions, including self-quarantine, in accordance with CDC guidance.
  • Train all employees on appropriate cleaning and disinfection, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette.
  • Encourage frequent handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • All employees should wear face coverings to cover their nose and mouth in all areas of the plant (including break areas and locker rooms).
  • Increase the number of hand sanitizer dispensers in facilities to roughly one per employee and have designated staff provide hand sanitization to line employees every 30 minutes.
  • Develop a protocol for sanitizing hard hats and face shields at the end of the shift.
  • Develop a protocol for how employees can safely store their hardhats while going on break without bringing them into the shared areas (e.g., break rooms, locker rooms, cafeterias).
  • Control and limit outside traffic into facilities and require visitors to pass a health screen/protocol in accordance with department of public health guidelines.

Space & Process

  • Maintain social distancing of six feet of distance between workers where possible.
  • Ensure social distancing at all times by staggering shift start times and breaks. Have entire shifts vacate the building before next shift starts. Limit staff to zones within the plant, rearrange workstations, eliminate alternating workstations and/or install protective barriers between close contact workstations.
  • Relax sick leave policies related to COVID-19. Eliminate premiums, copays and waiting periods for COVID-19 testing.
  • Disinfect tools used by multiple employees between shifts.

Communication

  • Develop or provide training and messaging (in multiple languages) for social distancing, hand hygiene, donning, doffing and sanitizing PPE and messaging about what to do if you are sick. Consider alternatives to traditional in-person trainings for delivery of this information (e.g., videos). Develop a method to verify employee understanding and participation in these strategies.
  • Adopt mass communication methods to communicate COVID-19 prevention and informational messages to employees.
  • Add visual cues at six-foot intervals (e.g., floor markings, signs, traffic cones) in cafeterias, knife and gear acquisition areas and other areas where lines may form.
  • Audit communication channels to validate the information is being received and followed by all personnel.

Community Partnerships

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP)

  • This $19 billion program will assist farmers, ranchers and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.

USDA Rural Development

  • USDA Rural Development lenders may offer 180-day loan payment deferrals without prior agency approval for Business and Industry Loan Guarantees, Rural Energy for America Program Loan Guarantees, Community Facilities Loan Guarantees and Water and Waste Disposal Loan Guarantees.

Resource Coordination Center for Pig Farmers

  • The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has formed a Resource Coordination Center (RCC) to support Iowa livestock producers affected by the COVID-19 supply chain disruptions.

Additional Resources