OKLAHOMA CITY (May 12, 2020) — Today, Governor Kevin Stitt issued a sixth amendment to Executive Order 2020-13 to allow the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry to assist with potential livestock processing facility disruptions.
“Oklahoma’s ag producers, who play a critical role in providing food for millions of people worldwide, are currently facing many difficult decisions during this unprecedented time,” said Gov. Stitt. “Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur and the team at ODAFF are working diligently to assist our livestock farmers and ranchers across the state, and this executive order will continue to ensure they have the help they need as they navigate the challenges brought about by COVID-19.
As a result of COVID-19, the animal processing sector has seen severe disruptions in its workforce due to both positive cases and general absenteeism of workers. This disruption has led to the closing or slowing of production in many processing plants. Because production animals are ready just in time for processing and animals continue to move up the supply chain, this leaves producers with no choice but to depopulate.
The amendment allows ODAFF to assist in the following ways:
· Depopulation of any animals unable to be processed at available processing facilities due to COVID-19.
· Assist in the disposal of animal carcasses resulting from the depopulation in a manner that protects the environment, does not create a public health hazard, does not result in contamination of public or private drinking water supplies and ensures watersheds and groundwater are protected pursuant to 2 O.S. § 10-20(B).
· Utilize all necessary equipment and manpower available and to freely move the equipment and manpower across state lines in cooperation with bordering states.
· Cooperate with appropriate agencies, including but not limited to Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, and Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality to ensure roadways are protected and all solid wastes are managed and disposed of appropriately.
· Ensure ease of licensing, including the use of umbrella licensing, for vehicles utilized to move animal carcasses.
“Due to the uncertainty of this rapidly evolving situation, it is critical our agency is equipped to respond and assist our producers,” said Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur. “This executive order allows us to ensure our land, water and air stays safe and provide producers with support during this challenging time.”
ODAFF also has a trained Incident Command Team on standby that is preparing for deployment and action, if needed.
What Oklahoma Agriculture Producers Are Saying:
“The livestock processing industry is facing complex and unprecedented challenges as it grapples with the complications of the COVID-19 crisis. This is a time for flexibility, innovation and cooperation. We support Gov. Stitt’s decision to place additional and necessary authority in the hands of Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Blayne Arthur in an effort to provide solutions in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Arthur has proven to be a great leader for Oklahoma’s agriculture industry and we have no doubt the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture will lead stakeholders toward a quick and satisfactory resolution to the processing sector’s current challenges.” - Scott Blubaugh, AFR/OFU Cooperative president
“We appreciate Gov. Kevin Stitt’s leadership in recognizing and addressing the critical challenges facing Oklahoma agriculture. His action today will equip the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry with the tools needed to help our state’s farmers and ranchers navigate these unprecedented times in our food supply chains.” - Rodd Moesel, Oklahoma Farm Bureau president
“COVID-19 has created never-before-seen challenges in Oklahoma’s pork industry. These include packing plant slowdowns and even stoppages that have resulted in more hogs ready for market than we can process on a daily basis. Our farmers now face decisions that are a devastating last resort for the people who have dedicated their life’s work to raising and caring for animals. We appreciate the leadership shown by Governor Kevin Stitt and Sec. of Agriculture Blayne Arthur in helping our farmers plan for the challenges the future may hold.” - Roy Lee Lindsey, Jr., Oklahoma Pork Council executive director
“The last few weeks have been very difficult for the livestock processing industry. We truly appreciate Governor Stitt and Sec Arthur’s leadership in making sure our food supply remains readily available and safe.” - Tyler Norvell, Director of Oklahoma Operations for The Poultry Federation
“We greatly appreciate the Governor’s and the Secretary’s foresight and commitment to Oklahoma livestock farmers and ranchers during these very difficult times. While cattle ranchers have not been faced with depopulation decisions, and we pray that we will not, we recognize our friends and neighbors with pork and poultry have encountered these difficult decisions and fully support the preparation, aid and assistance Oklahoma can offer.” - Michael Kelsey, Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president