Sport Coronavirus: the impatience and anger of American breeders

08:50  25 may  2020
08:50  25 may  2020 Source:   rfi.fr

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For several weeks, some twenty large American slaughterhouses, which have become centers of infection for the coronavirus, have been forced to close temporarily. Consequence: breeders can no longer sell their production and are forced to euthanize their animals, whose price plummets by 40%.

From our special correspondent in Oklahoma,

In her supermarket in Tonkawa, a small farming town in the Midwest, Lisa Blubaugh never imagined that she would ever face food shortages. It was before the coronavirus which ended up rationing the sale of basic products such as bread, milk or meat in its city, which nevertheless produced thousands of tonnes per day in normal times. "We are the bread basket of Oklahoma, so it is rather ironic to run out of bread!"

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Lisa Blubaugh is the wife of one of Oklahoma's largest independent breeders. In his family ranch passed down from father to son for five generations, Scott Blubaugh opens the enclosure of his champion: Chiever, 5 years old, 900 kg. A magnificent black Angus bull. "This is Chiever. We stuck the number 1 on his ear, because he's the best bull!

This breeder, president of the Oklahoma Farmers Union, is still as proud of his animals as he is, but he does not take heart over the absurdity of the situation: across the United States, supermarkets and restaurants are running out of meat while farmers like him despair of not being able to sell their production.

"People don't believe their eyes, Scott Blubaugh gets carried away. They can't figure out what's going on. Because we have lots of cows, lots of chickens, lots of pigs, but we can no longer process them industrially to sell them in supermarkets! My grandfather used to tell us stories like that in the 1930s, during the Great Depression, but we had never experienced such a situation. »

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A sector shutdown

Because of the coronavirus which affects the employees of the main American slaughterhouses, they are forced to close. Without these giant factories, the entire food production chain is broken in the country.

"In the United States, four major food and beverage groups control about 85% of industrial slaughter and their workers get sick from the coronavirus," says Scott Blubaugh. As a result, their factories are currently closing, or else they are going under-regime. That's the problem because it takes just two or three days late in slaughter for the whole system to collapse.

And again, Scott Blubaugh considers himself happy because his cattle can graze nearby. But hog and poultry farmers can't wait. Their animals continue to be born every day and are euthanized for lack of space on the farms. A disaster that is already pushing some American farmers to the brink. "I received a call last week from a farmer in southern Oklahoma who was crying, desperate, with his loaded revolver. We finally managed to send someone trained to help him. We had to set up an anti-suicide phone line with someone ready to answer 24 hours a day. When I get these kinds of calls, my heart stops.

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American life has been fundamentally reordered because of the virus. Concerts, parades and baseball games have been called off. Across much of the country, African- Americans and Hispanics have been infected with the coronavirus at disproportionate rates.

Faced with the emergency, Scott Blubaugh has stepped up his interventions on the American mainstream media to call for a deep reform of the country's food industry. From his lands in Oklahoma, he asked Washington to break the big monopolies to return to more local and independent production. He even wrote to Donald Trump who released millions of aid at the end of April and tried to force slaughterhouses by decree to stay open despite the pandemic. Insufficient according to Scott Blubaugh: "We need fundamental changes, break the monopolies and replace them with smaller, more local factories because our food system is broken in the United States!"

And this unprecedented crisis, which follows the long and costly trade war with China, is, according to the farmer, eroding the popularity of Donald Trump among American farmers six months before the presidential election.

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