Image courtesy of the Office of Ag Commissioner Andy Gipson
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to cause a strain on certain aspects of the national food supply chain, Commissioner of Agriculture and Commerce Andy Gipson says that Mississippi’s food supply chain is in good shape.
“The country’s food supply chain continues to function in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, labor issues in other states, coupled with shifting demands as restaurants and schools have closed, have strained the supply chain,” said Commissioner Gipson.
He continued, “In Mississippi, our food supply is abundant, plentiful and safe; thanks to our hardworking farmers. It is imperative that we take steps that will provide new market opportunities for our farmers, while simultaneously providing consumers with avenues to purchase direct from farmers. These steps are all part of keeping our food supply diverse and secure.”
During a press conference Thursday, Commissioner Gipson announced a series of actions taken by the Department of Agriculture and Commerce to strengthen the state’s food supply chain.
- Commissioner Gipson signed an emergency rule increasing the number of owners an animal may have when utilizing custom slaughter. The 120-day emergency rule will expire; however, the Department will file a regular rule change to make this a permanent rule. “This action to remove the limit of four owners will provide additional options for both farmers and consumers,” said Commissioner Gipson.
- To further expand farm-to-table efforts, Commissioner Gipson announced the launch of the Mississippi Farm Marketplace. The Mississippi Farm Marketplace is an online marketing portal that gives farmers a place to list commodities they have for sale, while providing consumers a location to easily source local products. The portal can be accessed at MSFarmMarketplace.com, where a variety of commodities can be listed including produce, meats, dairy products, honey, live animals for custom slaughter, eggs, aquaculture, seafood, and horticulture products. In addition, the portal contains a listing of on-farm jobs available.
- Commissioner Gipson discussed the need to expand meat processing capacity in the state as some producers are unable to get meat processed because many processing facilities are at capacity. He invited existing meat processors to submit applications to the Mississippi Land, Water, and Timber Resources Program to upgrade their facilities to federally inspected status, or expand their facilities for additional processing capacity.
Commissioner Gipson also warned against the dangers of panic-buying.
“That is a greater danger to our food access than COVID-19 itself. When people go in and buy just for themselves, they’re not leaving any for their neighbor, for the elderly or for those who may not be able to get out and shop as often,” he said.
The actions taken by the department come as some meat processing plants across the nation have had to temporarily shut down due to the spread of the virus. In late April, John Tyson, the CEO of Tyson Foods, wrote that “the food supply chain is breaking” following the company’s decision to temporarily close several of its plants. Tyson explained that “millions of pounds of meat will disappear from the supply chain” due to the decision; placing a strain of grocery stores.