WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, joined her colleagues in Iowa’s Congressional delegation to urge U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to expand eligibility of the department’s COVID-19 relief programs to include custom cattle feeders, a sector of Iowa’s agricultural economy operated primarily by family farmers.
 
In their letter, Senators Ernst and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), and Representatives Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa), Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), highlighted the exclusion of custom cattle feeders from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
 
“While we appreciate USDA’s commitment to assisting much of the beef cattle industry, it’s been brought to our attention that USDA did not include assistance for custom cattle feeders. Custom feeding is an important part of Iowa's cattle industry,” Ernst and her colleagues wrote. “In Iowa, nearly all custom feedyards are owned and operated by farm families. Many of these custom cattle feeders have been unable to conduct business as usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with yards sitting empty or at low capacity….To assist custom cattle feeders during this difficult time, we request that USDA include custom cattle feeders as part of any upcoming assistance plans.”
 
The members also emphasized the ability for custom cattle feeders, which have faced similar business difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to meet the same loss requirements that swine and poultry growers had to meet in previous rounds of CFAP.
 
Custom cattle feeders are losing revenue and Iowans are suffering,” the members wrote.Simply put, the plight of custom cattle feeders in Iowa is very similar to those in the swine and poultry sectors.”
 
Background:
On January 27, 2021, USDA froze additional CFAP payments to conduct a customary review of the program, including its payments and eligibility. Last year, the two rounds of CFAP assistance provided over $2.1 billion in assistance to Iowa’s farmers, growers, and producers. USDA approved over 113,000 applications from Iowa for CFAP aid.
 
Ernst’s latest efforts build on her work to support Iowa’s farmers and producers during COVID-19. Last week, Ernst joined a bipartisan effort to urge the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Small Business Administration (SBA) to issue new clarifications to ensure more farmers and ranchers are eligible for the PPP.
 
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