WESTMINSTER, CO – A bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators, led by U.S. Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), urged U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue to assure that bison producers will be included in the agricultural assistance package that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is developing under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“Bison producers across the country have felt the economic impact of the COVID 19 pandemic,” the Senators wrote in a letter sent to USDA Thursday. “As you consider how to assign specific payment amounts to livestock producers, we urge you to assist our nation’s bison producers in a fair and reasonable manner as their traditional markets continue to close.”
Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association, welcomed the support of the eight Senators as “an important step to keep the needs of bison producers on the table as USDA finalizes the details in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.”
“Because we are a relatively small segment of agriculture, our producers often get overlooked. Yet, bison ranchers, processors and marketers are all experiencing the same disruption as our neighbors in other sectors of the livestock business.”
Carter told Northern Ag Network that restaurants have been the primary outlet for the high value cuts of meat where the retail segment is mainly ground bison. Even though the retail segment continued to sell bison, those sales are only about a third the price of the restaurant cuts.
“We saw our market prices paid to the ranchers and finisher drop by $0.40 in one week,” he said. “That’s had an impact all the way down the line. We appreciate the eight Senators for weighing in to make sure the bison sector is included.”
Senator Rounds said, “South Dakota is the leading state in bison production. Like every other sector of our economy, our bison producers are hurting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our legislation will make certain they are eligible for much-needed assistance,” said Rounds.
In addition to Smith and Rounds, the letter was signed by U.S. Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Tester (D-MT), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
In late April, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring also sent a letter to the Secretary urging specific assistance for the nation’s bison producers.
National Bison Association
Northern Ag Network