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Some national dignitaries were in Manhattan Thursday to discuss the current state of agriculture and the livestock industry in particular.

Kansas 1st District Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Roger Marshall joined USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach for a round table discussion with livestock producers at Manhattan Commission Company (8424 U.S. Hwy 24). The beef industry, which has been under constant pressure as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is only now beginning to recover. Marshall says a lot of the help recently has come in the way of federal relief.

“I continue working very hard on increasing our export markets and we’ve signed some incredible trade agreements but COVID has slowed down the expansion of those markets. I’m confident if we can get them reopened that our beef exports will grow 10 to 15 percent in the future,” he said.

Marshall says it is important for him to meet with these local producers to help guide them to the correct outcomes. He also adds that the participation level for these kinds of programs has been great.

“Most of the monies have been used where they’re supposed to be. There is still a little bit of it left which is probably a good thing. One of the programs rolled out was the farmers and families food box. We visited one of those south of Manhattan where they’re growing fruits and vegetables locally and distributing them to those who need it,” he said.

That food box is at A&H Farms.

USDA Undersecretary Ibach says his conversation with members of the Manhattan Commission Company centered on the benefits of beef traceability and the role USDA plays in that.

“Kansas cattlemen are very progressive and so I think the most encouraging thing I heard today is they want to work with USDA to make their industry better, to address concerns in their industry and to continue to keep the beef industry in Kansas very strong,” he said.

Ibach also heard some of the issues the industry has faced not just from COVID, but from other disasters such as the meat packing plant fire in Kansas last year. The industry in the state was just about recovered from that when COVID hit and caused a disruption for full capacity operations.

“Part of our (USDA’s) responsibility is figuring out if we have the right regulatory programs in place to be able to mitigate the cost or damage to producers when we have disruptions to the marketplace,” he said.

Ibach also toured the National Bio and Agro Defense Facility during his stop to Manhattan Thursday. He says when COVID hit the United States, it shifted a major part of the country’s focus to foreign animal diseases and viruses. He says COVID has also slowed down slightly the progress of getting the facility opened on time.

“We’re still trying to gauge just how much COVID has affected that timeline. We still think it’s going to be within a reasonable window of where we had planned to the commissioning, starting to move in and then up and running at full capacity,” he said.

Thursday’s round table also included Richard Fordyce, administrator of the Farm Service Agency at USDA who spoke to the agency’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.

“We announced last week some additional commodities will see an extension to the sign up deadline to Sept. 11. We factored all of those payments at 80 percent and announced last week we’d make that additional 20 percent payment to bring those payments up to 100 percent,” he said.

Those payments were ran out of the Kansas City office last weekend. That then goes to the county office for final review. Some producers are already receiving those 20 percent payments.

Fordyce says he heard from producers who are still struggling with low commodity prices and the affects from the first quarter when the pandemic numbers began to soar nationwide.

The post Local farmers take part in agricultural round table with Congressman, USDA officials appeared first on News Radio KMAN.