FOX NEWS – As corona virus The pandemic continues to wage wars secretly throughout the country, American farmers forced to pour milk, destroy eggs, throw fresh fruits and vegetables, put cattle to sleep and plow under very strong plants
Meanwhile, financially beleaguered Americans line up at a food bank in an unprecedented amount, humanitarian leaders fear that global hunger a pandemic is developing, and grocery store shelves are rarely filled.
So what is wrong?
Dramatic decline in demand, weak relations in highly consolidated supply chains, and industrial monopoly for decades, experts say.
“Most of our food is now produced for restaurants, hotels, schools and institutional users, around 50 percent. The markets have effectively been closed, and now there is not enough demand to be used at home, “Dan Glickman, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute and former US Secretary of Agriculture, told Fox News. “The supply chain is also not created for this rapid transformation.”
From its field, the supply chain has become very centralized, especially in meat and poultry.
“This step towards food processing concentration has been a common trend for years and has been carried out for the purpose of efficiency and cost savings. But we now see how it was affected by an event such as COVID-19, where workers have been greatly affected, “Glickman continued. “Four companies control about 70 percent of meat production. We no longer have a decentralized food production process, at least not until 30 years ago. “
And the level of generating waste and income alone is amazing. The United Fresh Produce Association, according to Politician, estimates its members lose up to $ 1 billion per week.
“Before the pandemic, US consumers bought about a third of their calories and spent more than half of their food dollars on food consumed outside their homes – restaurants, fast food, schools, work cafeterias, etc.,” Dr. Douglas Jackson-Smith, a professor in the School of Environment and Natural Resources at Ohio State University. “The closure of these outlets and home orders have changed radically where most Americans buy and consume their food, and the supply chain is slow to reorganize and respond.”
Farmers who dump milk and plow under products have lost customers and markets that buy large quantities of products, he continued. In addition, most US milk is used to produce mozzarella cheese, which is mostly used in pizza sold through retail outlets – and orders placed at home have significantly reduced the volume of demand for pizza cheese.
“In areas where this is the main end use for most local milk supplies, it is not easy to pivot into smaller size retail packaging or non-cheese products,” Jackson-Smith said. “Many food supply chains are built to supply commercial and retail food service outlets. It is difficult for many of these companies to change their production practices and distribution systems within a few weeks. “
For some farmers, it is not too difficult to kill their animals and destroy their crops rather than just being alert when they suffer and rot as summer approaches. Sharp images on social media discarded mountains of potatoes and fresh milk flowing to earth have been particularly haunting considering that the food bank, according to Feeding America, has experienced a 70 percent increase in demand since the virus survived and millions of people lost their livelihoods. .
Keiko Tanaka, a professor of Rural Sociology at the University of Kentucky, underlined that of the two main supply chains in the US food industry – one for household consumption and the other for commercial use – more than half of the expenditure comes from the commercial side of the scale, which has been practically destroyed.
And making changes immediately for sudden changes in demand, he said, is far from simple. Milk processors, for example, “do not have equipment to pack [excess milk] into smaller containers for grocery stores and retail use “when there is an abundance of cheese and other dairy products with a longer shelf life.”
“Like vegetable and fruit farmers, dairy farmers have little choice but to get rid of excess milk,” said Keiko and the research team. “Different reasons are at work for each food supply chain which makes it not easy to easily or quickly divert food supplies for commercial use to household use. Among them are labor shortages, falling prices, and non-conformities in facilities and equipment. “
In addition, tens of thousands of piglets have had forced abortions in recent weeks amid reduced demand. Millions of chickens have been slaughtered – and not for food.
In April, the largest meat companies not only in the US but also the world – including Cargill Inc., Tyson Foods, JBS USA, and Smithfield Foods – were forced to suspend production in about 20 slaughterhouses across the country, triggering fears of a lack of meat. mass.
Data released earlier this month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed nearly 5,000 factory workers in 19 states tested positive for the virus on April 27, possibly due to close working conditions. The subsequent threat from meatless America prompted the Trump administration in late April to ask for the Defense Production Act, which finally mandated that processing facilities remain open throughout the crisis.
But as Jackson-Smith points out, requiring a factory to open will require labor, and the meatpacking plant has one of the more vulnerable workers in the food sector.
“Consolidation of the meat processing sector means that the loss of some very large processing locations can have an impact on a large portion of the nation’s meat supply,” he said.
More broadly, food production, processing and distribution have become increasingly concentrated and consolidated since the 1980s and 1990s when the US passed laws and enacted policies that relaxed antitrust laws and encouraged agribusiness mergers and acquisitions.
“This has led to increased centralization and consolidation in the food system where a small number of very large integrated companies control the processing, distribution and sale of food in the US and globally,” explained Jackson-Smith. “Concentration is very prominent in meat and dairy products, where several very large companies control the processing and distribution of the majority of output in the US.”
For one, vegetables and fruits that were originally supposed to be bought by institutional buyers no longer have direct buyers – and short time to buy others before they can no longer be sold.
Overall, the decline in agriculture, according to experts, has reached its peak during the crisis.
According to USDA data, the number of farms declined rapidly from a peak of 6.8 million in 1935 to 2.05 million in 2017 while the average size increased 155 hectares in 1935 to 444 hectares in 2017. Furthermore, changes in the interpretation of the law Antitrust since the late 1970s, Tanaka highlighted, has allowed companies to make mergers and acquisitions that would not have been allowed before. In 1968, the US had 10,000 meat processing plants, and now there are around 3,000. Of the 3,000, only a few accounted for the majority of animals processed.
“Recently New York time the article also claims that among the 800 USDA examined at slaughterhouses in the US, only about 50 factories slaughter and process 98 percent of beef, and many of these facilities are owned and operated by four large meat companies, “he said. “COVID-19 outbreaks in food processing facilities have revealed how food processing is a major obstacle in our food system. One-size rules for all for food safety and health losses for small and medium scale professors and mom-and-pop retailers. “
But in an effort to ease the burden on the agriculture sector, last month, the Trump administration announced the Coronavirus Food Aid Food Program, which will issue $ 16 million in payments to farmers and farmers. It also allocated $ 3 billion in purchases of large quantities of milk, meat products that will be distributed through food banks.
While federal aid is welcomed, many fear it will not be enough to revive the country’s bread and butter – that is – anywhere close to what is needed.
According to the leading farmer trade group, the Federation of American Agricultural Bureaus, aid packages will not pay for winnowing cattle. In a statement to Reuters, The USDA said the payment program “is still being developed, and the agency has received more requests for assistance than has money to handle.”
Furthermore, the assistance is likely far from not immediate. Officials anticipate that it can take up to a month for food to be packaged and transferred to foundations, food banks, and other places in need.
So what is needed to prevent disruption to the U.S. food economy in the future?
“We need a food supply chain that is less concentrated. More regional supply chains have the ability to adapt, “Tanaka and his team stressed. “In order for food products to be quickly reconstructed when a food supply chain segment breaks, a mixture of various sizes and types of agriculture, processing plants and distributors must be included in each regional supply chain.”
Even so, other experts caution that major changes come with their own financial difficulties.
“The challenge here is that reform may be more expensive than the waste that is currently happening. Sometimes it’s better to let a farmer pour milk into the drain, and compensate the farmer – not all dairy farmers – for their losses, “added Vincent Smith, a professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Montana State University.” This is short-term crises, and thus only provide cash assistance for food aid to households facing hunger and allow the private market to respond to the best possible approach. “
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