Letter Outlines Specific Action To Assist Producers Impacted by COVID-19
WESTMINSTER, CO (April 16, 2020) – National and North Dakota bison leaders today hailed the work of North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring for weighing in with U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue with specific policy recommendations to assist commercial and tribal bison producers impacted by the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The bison industry will likely experience the lingering effects of the current market situation for another two years. The drop in the carcass price for bison has declined rapidly since the pandemic and producers and plants are struggling,” the Commissioner wrote in a letter sent to Secretary Perdue earlier today.
“Therefore, we are proposing a market facilitation payment based on the herd inventory on February 21, 2020 and reflecting the drop in the market value of bison.”
The National Bison Association sent a letter to Secretary Perdue on March 27th, requesting that bison producers be included in any livestock assistance program crafted by USDA utilizing the $9.5 billion allocated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The Secretary responded that he will consider the needs of bison producers “as we continue to assess how we can best help our hardworking farmers, ranchers, and agricultural producers.”
In early April, the National Bison Association began to develop an in-depth analysis of the COVID-19 impacts throughout the bison business.
Dave Carter, National Bison Association executive director, explained, “Because USDA does not maintain extensive industry data on bison, we felt it important to provide an analysis that could be utilized as the basis for policymaking.”
The NBA analysis identified severe disruption and financial impact because of the loss of foodservice business, which has served as the primary outlet for high-value bison steaks. Even though retail demand for bison meat has spiked since the COVID-19 outbreak, that demand is driven primarily for lower-priced ground bison. Additionally, bison processors are facing increased costs as they work to maintain a healthy and safe work environment for their employees.
As the NBA was conducting its analysis, Goehring reached out to leaders of the North Dakota Buffalo Association and the InterTribal Buffalo Council to identify specific policy recommendations that could be developed. The North Dakota, National Bison Association and Tribal leaders put a working group together that established the proposed assistance that was conveyed to Secretary Perdue today.
That package proposes compensation of $210 for bison cows and bulls, $252 for finishing stock weighing between 400 – 800 lbs., and $294 for finished bison weighing more than 800 lbs. Additionally, Commissioner Goehring’s letter encourages expanded use of bison meat in school lunch and other nutrition programs when the nation begins to recover from the COVID-19 shutdowns.
Kevin Leier, a Rugby, ND bison rancher and executive director of the North Dakota Buffalo Association, said today, “We commend Commissioner Goehring for his commitment to bring together key stakeholders in the bison business, and to help us develop specific recommendations that will help producers across the country weather this storm.”
Mike Faith, chair of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and vice chair of the InterTribal Buffalo Council, added, “We want to not only help producers get through this immediate crisis, but also look for opportunities to utilize the meat from this magnificent animal to help restore the health of our families and communities as we emerge into a brighter day.”
Carter noted, “Just as bison stick together when adversity threatens the herd, the community of bison producers at the national, state and tribal level worked together to develop sound, constructive proposals. We thank Commissioner Goehring for helping us carry those proposals to Secretary Perdue.” Dave Carter, 303.594.4420; Kevin Leier, 701.208.0440, National Bison Association.
Francie M Berg
Author of the Buffalo Tales &Trails blog