AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Scott Ging was born on the land he farms to this day.
He and thousands of other Texas farmers are feeling the financial hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic. Their struggle to continue providing the nation’s food and fiber brought U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to Texas.
Perdue visited Ging Cattle Company, located in Coupland, Texas, roughly 30 miles northeast of Austin, to hear firsthand from farmers, ranchers, and agriculture producers about the effects of the pandemic, and what the federal government ought to
“I don’t think of Texans as timid,” Perdue told the group. “Let’s talk straight.”
The roundtable included representatives Texas Farm Bureau, Plains Cotton Growers, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, and Southwest Council of Agribusiness. U.S. Senator for Texas John Cornyn and Congressman John Carter also participated, as did Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller.
“We really do appreciate the coronavirus assistance,” Texas Farm Bureau Vice President Zachary Yanta said.
Farmers nationwide received financial support from the federal government— to the tune of at least $9.5 billion. More than 24,500 Texas farmers have split $304 million through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program. But the commodities currently included in the program are only those which were hit with a five percent-or-greater price decline from mid-January 2020 to mid-April 2020.
Yanta and the others suggested USDA work to include renewed funding for those affected from mid-April through at least mid-July.
“We didn’t know what the tail of this COVID would be,” Perdue said, explaining the uncertainty of the initial timeline.
Ging said the finances and other unkowns about the market are what keeps him up at night.
“We were selling cattle in January for a good price and now they’re at the bottom,” he said.
As the Senate takes up the next assistance bill, Arthur Uhl, immediate past president of the Texas & Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, urged the federal leaders to consider language that would provide overtime for federal inspectors, provide grants to small processors to become federally inspected, and allow the interstate sale of state-inspected meat through e-commerce.
Cornyn said he planned to take the farmer feedback to Capitol Hill as Congress crafts another round of coronavirus relief money.
“We knew that doing something that big and that fast, it wasn’t going to be perfect, but we knew it was emergency” he said of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
“This kind of feedback from our from our ag sector here in our producers here in Texas is invaluable,” Cornyn said.
Perdue said his mission for the meeting was “so we can figure out what we’re doing right, what are we doing wrong, what are we doing we ought not to be doing, what are we not doing that we ought to be doing.”
Ging said despite the challenges he and other agriculture producers face in the days ahead, people should not worry about the availability of agriculture products making it to Texas grocery stores and dinner tables.
“It’s going to be curious to see how long this plays out and how long we can survive,” Ging said. “But we’re resilient, we’re tough, we’re fighters, and we’ll keep farming and feeding people.
Earlier in the day, Perdue met with Gov. Greg Abbott at the Texas Capitol.
The pair signed a shared stewardship agreement, which added the Lone Star State as the 15th state to partner with the federal government on protecting forest and grasslands.
After Perdue’s Central Texas swing, he traveled to Houston, to check out a food bank and tour a food delivery company.