WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) today is seeking additional assistance for Iowa pork producers suffering from restaurant and meat processing plant closures during COVID-19. In a bipartisan letter to Congressional leaders, Ernst and her colleagues ask for additional funding for programs at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that would provide relief for producers who are being forced to depopulate livestock herds.

“The crisis is immediate. Pork producers send to market over two million pigs each week. If twenty percent of processing is idle, that means somewhere around 400,000 animals per week must be disposed of in some manner other than processing. Accordingly, government support is needed in the management of a sensible depopulation of the herd until plant operations stabilize,” the senators wrote.

“Given these significant social and economic consequences, we must prioritize funding to indemnify producers who are depopulating herds due to processing plant closures. Assistance is needed for humane euthanization and disposal which will require the coordination of the human, animal, and environmental health communities,” the senators continued.

“U.S. hog farmers are in dire straits and face the tragic need to euthanize animals due to circumstances beyond their control,” National Pork Producers President Howard “AV” Roth, a hog farmer from Wauzeka, Wisconsin said. “We thank Sens. Grassley, Ernst and Smith for leading efforts to compensate pork producers and help them weather this crisis. Without this and other much-needed assistance, we face consolidation and contraction of a critical farm sector. ”

“Sadly, pork producers here in Iowa and around the country have had to make tragic decisions to euthanize animals intended for the food supply,” National Pork Producers President-Elect Jen Sorenson, communications director for Iowa Select Farms said. “That goes against every farming instinct. We need significant help to support U.S. pork producers that generate more than 500,000 jobs and $23 billion in personal income across America. We appreciate the tireless efforts of Sens. Grassley and Ernst to help hog farmers throughout this crisis.”

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.

Background:

Ernst joined other Iowa leaders in urging “immediate assistance” from the administration to support Iowa’s pork industry, and welcomed the president’s action to protect workers, support the supply chain, and help pork producers.

In addition, Ernst has written a letter to Vice President Mike Pence calling on the administration to ensure the U.S. maintains a strong, secure food supply chain. 

Ernst also joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging Secretary Perdue to take immediate action to assist pork producers and maintain the pork food supply chain.

Ernst has also urged the administration to eliminate payment limits for Iowa’s livestock, dairy, and specialty crop producers, so they can get the relief they need during COVID-19. 

In addition, Ernst successfully pushed the Small Business Administration (SBA) to ensure Iowa’s farmers are able to access Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). In the bipartisan package there is also increased funding for the EIDL program – which will help businesses, and now farmers, across Iowa.

Recently, Ernst hosted a telephone town hall with thousands of Iowa’s farmers and producers, and was joined by Iowa’s Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

###