Expanding processing capacity and smoothing over processors’ relationship with farmers and ranchers will be priorities for the USDA going forward, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a recent interview.
Vilsack discussed USDA’s plans, especially relating to COVID relief funds, in an interview published on Farm Journal’s Agweb site. He said increasing processing capacity will be a priority: “In the U.S., I think it's fairly clear that producers believe we don't have enough [capacity], as well as providing additional support for small and midsized processing facilities that currently do exist.”
He also noted potential difficulties stemming from a maximum on pork processing line speeds recently imposed by a federal judge. If the cap of 1,106 per hour goes into effect, which it is scheduled to do on June 30, processors might have to cut their hog purchases, forcing some hog farmers into the spot market.
Vilsack deflected a question as to whether USDA would appeal the judge’s ruling, saying that’s up to the U.S. solicitor general. But he said $50 million in relief is available for hog producers who get forced into the spot market as a result of the line speed rule.