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Cattle industry battles lower market prices amid COVID-19 pandemic; ‘Will have far-reaching effects’

A cowboy leads Texas longhorns from their pens during the daily cattle drive in Fort Worth, Texas.

(The Center Square) – With the COVID-19 economic decline affecting food supply chains across the nation, Texas ranchers are looking for ways to recover from the impact.

“Fortunately, the livestock auction markets were protected as essential businesses, and were permitted to remain open with social distancing practices in place,” Robert E. McKnight, president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, told The Center Square. “This was very important to ranchers, as these outlets help protect competition and price discovery in the market. … But many of those who had planned to hold auctions during the spring either had to cancel those events or switch to a virtual sale.”

McKnight noted that cattle prices across the board have been much lower due to the ripple effects of the mandatory closures and stay-at-home orders introduced to help curb the spread of the virus.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on ranching, just as it has every other industry,” McKnight said. “Primarily, ranchers have felt the biggest hit through low cattle prices – some of the lowest we’ve seen, in fact – and market uncertainty.”

Recent analysis of the agriculture industry has looked at the impact and its effect on the state’s economic recovery.

“Research from the Agricultural and Food Policy Center at Texas A&M University estimated agricultural losses in Texas could go as high as $8 billion due to the COVID-19 economic downturn,” McKnight said. “This will have far-reaching effects, not just to the farmers and ranchers but in communities across the state.”

The work ahead may be challenging, but the goal is not insurmountable, McKnight said.

“Pandemic or not, cattle raisers are still hard at work producing the safe, nutritious and delicious beef consumers love,” McKnight said. “These are hard times, but we’ve been through a lot and we’ll get through this, too.”

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