COVID-19 and the Cattle Industry

Last updated 5/29/2020.

ICA staff and leaders have been working to take action as quickly as possible to mitigate the problems caused by COVID-19 and prevent future issues. 

Concerns include (but are not limited to): 

  • the spread between boxed beef and fed cattle prices 
  • immediate financial needs of producers 
  • availability of feed ingredients 
  • continuity of business in livestock auction markets and processing plants 
  • sustaining beef demand 
  • mental health of those affected 

Below, you'll find links to many relevant articles and announcements. If you have other questions or concerns, do not hesitate to contact our office at 515-296-2266.


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Financial Assistance

Direct Aid for Producers

NEW! FAQ for Cattle Producers

USDA announced the details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) on May 19. 

  • Applications open May 26 
  • Payment limitation: $250k per person/entity for all commodities combined 
  • Corporations, LLCs, and limited partnerships may receive up to $750k based upon the number of shareholders who contribute management/labor 
  • Producer's adjusted gross income must be less than $900,000 unless at least 75% or more of their income is derived from farming 
  • 80% of a producer's maximum total payment will be received within 7-10 days of approval of their application. The remaining portion will be paid at a later date "as funds remain available." 
  • Part 1 Payment: based on cattle sold between 1/15 and 4/15 
  • Part 2 Payment: based on inventory between 4/16 and 5/14

Click here for more information or contact your local FSA office.

Based on input from our members, ICA advocated for increased payment limits and higher coverage for future losses. Click here for more information about a recent meeting with Under Secretary Northey regarding this program.

Small Business Administration Loans

Agricultural producers are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans through the Small Business Administration (SBA). These loans are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Contact your lender ASAP if you are interested in participating. Click here for more information.

Producers are now eligible for the SBA's Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). After encouragement from ICA, Iowa's congressional delegation signed on to a letter advocating for farmers to be able to take advantage of these loans.

The EIDL loans are administered directly through the SBA, and businesses may request an emergency advance on the loan, up to $10,000, which is forgiveable. The loans themselves may be up to $2 million, based upon the economic injury suffered.

Farmers could begin applying for the EIDL loans on May 4.

The Center for Ag Law and Taxation has more information here. 


FSA Loan Deferment

Farmers with USDA farm loans who are affected by COVID-19, and are determined eligible, may have their next payment set aside. In some cases, FSA may also set aside a second payment for farmers who have already had one payment set aside because of a prior designated disaster. Contact your local FSA office or click here for more info.


Managing Feedlot Rations without Ethanol Coproducts  

  • Considerations when using coproducts -- Dan Loy, Iowa Beef Center director 
  • Nutritionist information – Dave Rueber, beef production specialist, Innovative Ag Services; Dustin Puhrmann, beef production specialist, United Farmers Cooperative 
  • Products and commodities available for substitution – Panelists 
  • Strategies currently in use – Panelists

Watch the recording here.

Listen to the audio here.

Holding or Slowing Cattle for Uncertain Market Timing


  • Nutrition strategies overview -- Dan Loy, Iowa Beef Center director 
  • Health concerns with heavy cattle in feedlots – Dan Thomson, ISU animal science department chair 
  • Nutritionist information – Dave Rueber, Innovative Ag Services, Manchester; Dustin Puhrmann, United Farmers Cooperative, Paulina

Watch the recording here.

Listen to the audio here.

Click here for a corresponding fact sheet: Considerations for Slowing Feedlot Cattle Growth due to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Sale Cancellations and Plant Closures: 

Click here for the most recent information. Have updates? Email us, call 515-296-2266 or text 515-230-4470.

Livestock Auction Markets: 

Livestock auction markets are allowed to continue operating, but some changes have been suggested. Click here for the Livestock Marketing Association's recommendations and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship's guidance.

     UPDATE: The Governor has issued a new proclamation effective from 5:00 pm on April 3 until April 30. Sales of food animals cannot have more than 25 people present. Click here for more information.

Mental Health

Iowa Concern Hotline: This service, through Iowa State University Extension, can offer financial, legal, stress and disaster related advice and counseling. Click here.

Suicide Prevention Program: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach will be offering seven online “Question. Persuade. Refer.” programs beginning Tuesday, April 14.  QPR is a suicide prevention program that teaches participants three steps to help save a life from suicide. Click here to register.

Find a Counselor: This website has a directory of more than 200 Iowa-based counselors who provide support over the phone or video calls and accept many forms of insurance. Another free resource is Your Life Iowa from the Iowa Department of Public Health. 

Rules and Regs:

Selling Beef Direct to Consumer:

Live cattle can be sold in quarters or halves and then processed for the owners' personal use at any state or federally inspected processor in Iowa.

In order to sell packaged beef (not a portion of the live animal) directly to consumers, the processing facility and the animal must be inpsected.

A recent Cooperative Interstate Shipping agreement with USDA-FSIS will enable both federal and state inspected facilities to process beef for sales across state lines.

Search for inspected processors in Iowa here.

Check out this one-page summary here.

Iowa State Extension fact sheet here.

Please contact the Iowa Department of Agriculture if you have questions.

Hours of Service: 

President Trump waived HOS rules for food security purposes through May 15. Click here for more info.

"Essential Worker" Documentation: 

If you or your employees would like proof of "essential worker" status, print one of these letters. Option 1 or Option 2.

Pesticide Applicator Testing: 

The deadline has been moved to December 31, 2020 for Iowans who were certified through December 31, 2019. More info here.

Iowa DOT Guidance:

     CDL holders can continue to operate even if their license expires or their medical examiner's certificate expires. More here.

     Restricted CDLs for agricultural inputs are being issues remotely. Click here for more information.

Cattle Market Challenges

Challenges in the cattle marketing are not new, and ICA's emphasis on these issues is not new. The Iowa Cattlemen's Association has been working for years to increase producers' leverage, improve price discovery, and better situate the independent Iowa cattlemen in the fed cattle markets. These issues became even more apparent and urgent with the COVID-19 pandemic. Below you'll find articles and press releases about ICA's cattle market work.

April 2020

Iowa Cattlemen advocate for producers amid crisis

Iowa Cattlemen joined 19 other state cattlemen's organizations to formally request a Department of Justice Investigation into the cattle markets. More info coming soon.

ICA board members have also been involved in many discussions and working groups across the country, exploring a regulatory approach to increase cash trade.

Read more.

March 2020

Iowa Cattlemen met with Senator Joni Ernst

Key topics discussed included the need for more transparency and negotiated cash trade in major cattle feeding states, reauthorization of Livestock Mandatory Reporting, the Packers and Stockyards investigation of beef pricing margins post-Holcomb fire... 

Read more.

March 2020

Small Fish in a Big Pond

When it comes to fed and other types of cattle marketing trades, our position is that increasing the timeliness and the detail of market data is key to providing price discovery for producers and other players in the live cattle market across the country. Read more.

February 2020

Iowa Policy Passes at NCBA

The Iowa Cattlemen’s Association returned from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association victorious, after garnering enough support to pass two new interim cattle marketing policies at the national level. 

Read more.

February 2020

Taking the Bucket to the Bunk

Market transparency is on full feed from your Iowa Cattlemen's Association...Our focus is to increase negotiated trade/market transparency up and down the beef belt for the opportunity to leverage competition... 

Read more.

January 2020

ICA Sets 2020 Policy

Most of the Cattle Production Committee meeting was focused on cattle marketing, and more specificially, market transparency and negotiated cash trade. 

Read more.


October 2019

Fire Fallout

ICA has been working on several longer-term priorities, intended to strengthen Iowa's beef business over time. 

Read more.

September 2018

ICA Leader Represent Iowa at NCBA Summer Business Meeting

Cattle Marketing is always a priority for ICA on the national level. This year, ICA introduced two policies in the Live Cattle Marketing Committee aimed at improving risk management tools for cattlemen. 

Read more.

March 2017

NCBA Policy Meetings Highlight Opportunities and Challenges in the Cattle Industry

Over the past several years, the types of cattle marketings (reported through mandatory price reporting) have changed. In the past, most cattle were "cash negotiated," meaning several market participants openly bid on cattle to negotiate the most favorable price for the cattle feeder. 

Read more.

August 2016

Mission Accomplished: ICA Cattle Marketing Policy now part of NCBA Policy

The board adopted policy encouraging that 50% of the cattle in the U.S. be marketed through negotiated cash trade. In Iowa, 60-70% of the cattle are already marketed through negotiated cash trade, but that is not the case in other major cattle feeding regions. The intent of this policy is not to mandate or dictate what any one producer does on theri farm, but to send a strong message that more price discovery needs to happen across the country in order for markets to become more reliable and stable. 

Read more.


Organizational Response

ICA Actions: The Iowa Cattlemen's Association has engaged with many government agencies and other organizations regarding COVID-19, prioritizing the success and well-being of Iowa's cattle producers.

Specifically, ICA has been advocating for short-term financial assistance for producers in the form of direct payments and eligibility for various loan programs.

This crisis has also heightened awareness of the challenges faced in the fed cattle markets that ICA has been working on for several years. While Iowa's cattlemen have long understood the need for more price discovery, the market fall-out from COVID-19 has made this problem more evident to others in the industry, who are now turning to ICA for leadership and input. We continue to build coalitions across the industry and with influential elected and regulatory officials to find a long-term solution.

A third priority for the organization is a thorough investigation by the Department of Justice into possible market manipulations by packing companies.

ICA has also ramped up communications to our board and county leaders. Several teleconferences each week keep board members and county organizations up-to-date on ICA's efforts, and offer ICA staff an opportunity to hear concerns from members in the country-side.

We have also been sending member emails several times a week, and we launched a new podcast to get even more information in the hands of our members. If you are not receiving ICA's emails or texts, sign up here.

NCBA Actions: NCBA has been actively lobbying for support for producers, continuity of business, and aggressive bidding by the packer. Read more here. 

Promoting Beef: The Iowa Beef Industry Council (the Beef Checkoff in Iowa) is actively promoting beef as an immune system booster, and sharing easy recipes for all the beef that has flown off the shelves in the past week. Visit their website here or look for IABeef on social media.