Type your question here!

Friday, April 17, 2020

Support Community Agriculture

I follow a thread for small scale meat processors (NMPAN) where some of them received their SBA Loan for their employees when they applied. This is what one of them is doing with it and how they responded to the pandemic.

I was one of the few out there who successfully applied for a SBA Payroll Protection Plan loan.  I received a check this week, and the first thing I did was announce to my staff that I am paying a $3/hr. hazard pay supplement over the next 8 weeks.  

The second thing I did was to call the 2 employees who were on leave -they were isolating at home because they felt they had risk conditions and couldn't risk going out - and told them they would receive a regular paycheck over those eight weeks.  So I am torn - I need to incentivize people to keep working, since we are under incredible demand for our services.  I have changed my processing services to eliminate the unproductive fussy stuff, and allow me to increase throughput by 20-25%, and try and meet demand.  Even with that, I am now scheduling in August.  

But I do not want to put people at risk, so we are wearing masks, sanitizing doorknobs and contact surfaces like crazy, and constantly reminding employees to go straight home, don't hang out!  

I will likely process in the range of 1,000 beef and 3,000 hogs this year.  That is like nothing, compared to the big meat plants that are being forced to shut down.  But in the weeks and months ahead, as shortages increase, we are going to find that this truly is an essential service.  People generally come together during hard times.  But food shortages will drive us apart, so I am doing what I can.  

I am also hoping to set a good example of how community-based agriculture can work, so in the years ahead, perhaps we will re-think neo-liberal capitalism, and create a system that treats people well. 

Tyson and Cargill and JBS and the rest are literally killing people in their plants by their work practices.  I don't want to take this analogy too far, but I feel a little bit like those doctors and nurses who keep going into the emergency rooms knowing they are risking excessive exposure, but they can't leave the patients.  

I am fielding e-mails and calls all day long from producers trying hard to get processing services anywhere they can.  I hate telling them they have to wait 4 months.  I don't think that there is a right answer to this question - we each have to answer it for ourselves.  I have told every one of my employees that I will hold their job if they self-quarantine.

Joe Cloud of T&E Meats

Buy Local Whenever Possible