Mississippi farmers have plenty of cattle to process, but the coronavirus is hurting the state’s supply chain. Many large meat processing plants across the country that Mississippi farmers rely on are shutting down or decreasing production because of the disease. Josh Maples, with the Mississippi State Extension Service, says beef production went down 35 to 40 percent last week.
“It’s caused lower supplies coming through the system in the short run," says Maples. "So we are seeing higher prices for beef items at the grocery store. And we’re seeing some products aren’t always available. So those are the short term disruptions that we’re kinda working through right now.”
To boost the state’s meat production, Mississippi’s Agriculture Commissioner Andy Gipson announced Thursday emergency funds for local meat processors. Gipson says "What I'm proposing, and what I'm asking all of our existing processors to do, is to submit proposals to span their plants to become USDA Certified so that meat process there can be sold in any grocery store, or anywhere else. And it’s that kind of supply chain we need to grow here in Mississippi so that we don’t depend too much on these other out of state processors.”
Commissioner Gipson has also signed an emergency order eliminating the maximum number of owners of an animal -- when using custom slaughter. Mike McCormick, President of the Mississippi Farm Bureau, says these initiatives will make it easier for a group of people to purchase and process livestock together, and split the meat amongst themselves.
McCormick says “It will definitely expand smaller shares and allow people that maybe didn’t have the freezer space or the amount of money that it would take to buy that such quantity of beef to be able to buy some locally owned product.”
A web portal has also launched that allows local farmers to sell their commodities directly to consumers across the state.