The Senate returned from their recess on Monday to continue discussion on the stimulus package on the table – the HEROES Act.
COVID-19 has exposed a lot of issues in our food supply chain, said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), on the Dairy Defined podcast from the National Milk Producers Federation.
“We have to work with industry and work with the producers to help them have a system to work through this if we get into problems in the future,” Peterson said.
One of the things that Peterson is focusing on is preparedness and getting “plans on the shelf” that could be used in the event of a future crisis.
For example, USDA has plans regarding what they would do in the event of an outbreak of African swine fever or foot-and-mouth disease. However, they are just plans, Peterson said, and they have not actually been implemented.
“I'd like to see us have things on the shelf, ready to go for these things that we know are probably going to be there at some point,” he said. “I want to work with the department to come up with rules, change the law so that all of this money can come out of the CCC so you don't have to have appropriations and special bills. So you've got something on the shelf for the Secretary to be able to come in and deal with it.”
With the recent depopulation of hogs, chickens and turkeys due to packing plant closures and shutdowns, the Secretary of Agriculture did not have the authority to go in and help producers because the animals were not sick, he explained.
“In the HEROES Act, I’m giving the Secretary that authority,” Peterson said. “I'm going to make it retroactive to help those producers that had to go in there and depopulate, they had to go and do it on their own.”
Preliminary work has begun to make this possible for the future.
“I don’t want to get into another situation where all of a sudden, we’re flying by the seat of our pants and trying to develop policy on the fly when people are in the process of depopulating,” Peterson said.
There’s no question COVID-19 has taught the supply chain many lessons.
“The bigger problem are these other issues like the disease issues and so forth that need to have some kind of an on-the-shelf response ready to go,” he said. “Because it's not a question of when or if we're going to have African swine fever, it's going to be a question of when.”
Listen to the full interview here.