DES MOINES, Iowa – In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence – the head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force – U.S. Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley along with Governor Kim Reynolds and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig are asking for additional support from the administration for the state’s pork producers.

The Iowa leaders write in part: “While the announcement by USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service that they are standing up an incident command is helpful and the Interim Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides useful steps for protecting workers, we urgently request the additional following resources and authorities, including invoking the Defense Production Act, that will be required to keep Iowa pork production viable:

  • Packing plant operations:Worker safety is paramount, and the packing industry is doing everything it can to ensure it and follow local, state and federal recommendations. We urge you to utilize every authority available to keep plants open, and to re-open closed facilities as soon as it is possible to do so safely.
  • Humane euthanasia of hogs: We ask that resources, including and in addition to those announced by APHIS, be deployed to assist in the humane euthanasia of animals. Resources are critically needed both on farm and in harvest facilities not currently producing food to safely, humanely and efficiently depopulate animals.
  • Indemnity:We strongly urge that farmers are indemnified for their euthanized hogs, including costs associated with depopulation and environmentally sound disposal, to help preserve Iowa’s pork industry. Pork producers also need protection through legal immunity from attempts by activist organizations to penalize producers who are required to take these actions to protect the welfare of their animals.
  • Mental health assistance: ...Mental health assistance is important to all affected, but producers who must euthanize animals cannot be forgotten. Providing mental health assistance to farmers, veterinarians and others involved in the difficult decisions and processes around euthanizing and disposing of animals is imperative

To read the letter in full, click here.

Background:

This letter follows Senator Ernst’s statement on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announced plans to establish a coordination center to help producers –like so many in Iowa – affected by the meat processing plant closures.

In addition, Ernst has written a letter to the vice president calling on the administration to ensure the U.S. maintains a strong, secure food supply chain. 

Ernst also joined a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging USDA Secretary Sonny 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 SBA to ensure Iowa’s farmers are able to access Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), and as a result of relief package the president signed yesterday, farmers will have access to these loans. 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.

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