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NCBA discusses COVID-19 and the beef markets

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Published on March 21, 2020

“The most important thing we want producers to understand is we are taking the COVID-19 outbreak very seriously. Not only is it an issue for the markets, there will be financial impacts on beef producers across the country,” said National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) CEO Colin Woodall. 

            Woodall and CattleFax Vice President of Industry Relations Kevin Good joined NCBA Policy Communications Director Ed Frank on the March 16 episode of Beltway Beef to discuss the impacts of the COVID-19. 

Supply chain 

            “We need to be looking at the overall beef chain, there are lots of things we can do to make sure we are coordinating and communicating with all segments of the chain,” said Woodall. “NCBA is focusing its time on talking to packers, processors and retailers to make sure we keep beef moving through the supply chain.” 

            “Everyone has to understand it is pivotal we keep beef moving through the chain so as not to make the market situation any worse than it already is,” said Woodall “So far, that has been working and we need to make sure the public understands we are currently not having any issues with packers or food safety inspections scaling back.” 

            “Things are moving forward, but we understand this is a very fluid situation, this disease has a different impact on the global economy each day, it seems as though there is something new every day,” Woodall explained. 

            “The president recently declared a state of emergency, so everything is going to be a little different,” he said. “Because of these changes, its pivotal NCBA maintain contact with all segments of the chain so we are aware of any changes.” 

            He continued, “As things change rapidly around us, we want to be a part of the discussion and ensure we can continue to keep beef on the shelves. This is a high priority and we will be working with the supply chain and government entities to ensure beef keeps moving.”

Clarity in the markets 

            Good noted there is much clarity still to be obtained in the coming days and weeks as the epidemic further unfolds. 

            “We need to get some confidence back in the markets across the board, not just in cattle,” Good explained. “It’s a risk-off type of an environment, and we can really see that in cattle futures as they’ve continued to freefall, with cattle prices following suit.”

            “From a producer’s standpoint, price levels are tough and producers are at or below breakeven in a lot of categories,” he noted. “From a big picture standpoint, the industry has done an adequate job of harvesting cattle and getting the product moved. Demand has remained strong, but there is uncertainty building in the markets and a lot of softer-type demand levels than we would like to see.” 

            He continued, “Only time will tell. Right now, the key is to just make it down the road for a few weeks and let the markets become a little more sure of when the outbreak will be contained and when we can expect to see more normal travel and commerce, therefore normal expenditures.” 

            “At that point, the market should recover some, based on behavior from similar events in the past,” Good explained. “Hopefully, this happens in the short-term and we can have less uncertainty in the markets.”

Personal element

            Woodall noted there is a large personal element to the impacts of COVID-19. 

            “This is not only personal from a finance standpoint, but we have NCBA members across the country wondering how they are going to move forward,” said Woodall. “Many families were expecting to go to livestock shows as planned and were told to turn around. There are a number of things impacting families, and we want them to know NCBA understands and has both empathy and sympathy for their situations.” 

            “We are all in this together and we will continue to work hard to ease the burden on producers,” said Woodall. “We can’t make the market better, but we can and will do everything in our power to move product and fill shelves.”

            “We want to remind everyone to follow precautions set of by the USDA and Center for Disease Control,” he said. “We need to be washing our hands and be mindful of where we are going to protect ourselves.” 

            “We are taking precautions here, and we encourage others to do the same,” said Woodall. “We will continue to keep our membership updated as this situation is very fluid and constantly changing.”

            Callie Hanson is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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