More

A roundup of news, reports, and research on agribusiness and related issues.

The Department of Agriculture (USDA) gave a Washington State poultry plant permission to significantly increase its processing speeds—a move some fear may jeopardize worker and food safety.

Foster Farms, the biggest chicken processor on the West Coast, was granted a line speed waiver by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on Tuesday for its 100,000-square feet operation in Kelso, Washington. This will allow the facility to slaughter chickens at a rate of 175 birds per minute—equivalent to 3 birds a second—up from the industry standard of 140 birds per minute. With this approval, the first of 2020, the Foster Farms plant joins 38 other facilities authorized to operate at the higher speed.

The dismal outlook for Wisconsin dairy farmers has worsened as they’re being warned that milk prices will continue falling, and more milk dumping could be necessary, if the federal government doesn’t start buying dairy products to offset COVID-19’s effect on the economy.

Rapidly changing conditions have taken a toll on processors and farmers alike as the market for cheese, butter and other products has been decimated by the near collapse of the food-service industry.

On Friday, cooperatives were telling members to cut milk production through culling cows or other means because processing plants had nowhere for the milk to go.

The COVID-19 market trauma is hitting farmers across the board in North Dakota, and federal financial help can’t come fast enough.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., speaking from Bismarck, conducted an online agricultural roundtable with two top U.S. Department of Agriculture officials on April 3 to hear from several farm organization and commodity specific concerns involving the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and other federal issues. Meetings like this are typically done in person, but because of the physical distancing recommendations, it was via teleconference.

It’s potato planting season, but many Dutch farmers are facing a mountain of a problem, with a million tons of potatoes left over from last season due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Restaurants in the Netherlands, many serving popular deep fried “patat”, have been closed since mid-March, with a ban on public gatherings set to last until June 1 at least.. With their closure, the market for potatoes collapsed overnight.

“This is a dramatic season, a turn of events no one could have predicted,” said Dirk de Heer from his farm in Beemster, in North Holland.

Some farmers, like many others Minnesotans, are struggling during these uncertain times amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

But many are relying on community-supported agriculture. One Minnesota farmer said he's found a way to adapt and still connect to the community.

"We're taking it day by day," said Dean Engelmann, owner of Tangletown Gardens Farm and Wise Acre Eatery.