Despite the potential for a profitable year for pork producers due to rising prices and increasing domestic and international demand, the industry has struggled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, wrote Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) in a letter to the Senate leadership on Tuesday.
Two million hogs remain backed up on farms today according to an analysis by Steve Meyer, an economist with Kerns & Associates.
“With restaurants, schools, and offices closed, demand for pork products has plummeted, and processing facilities have had to shut down to mitigate spread of the virus. Together, these factors contributed to a serious crisis for pork producers, creating glut of livestock with nowhere to go, and forcing some operations to make the excruciating choice to euthanize animals unable to be processed….For these reasons, it is critical that Congress act to support pork producers in the next coronavirus relief package,” the senators urged in the letter.
Key points in the letter include:
1. Packing plants must operate with robust workforce safety measures in place to protect employees from exposure to the virus in order to keep plants running.
2. Congress should provide financial assistance to pork producers who have had to euthanize livestock as a result of the pandemic, starting with reimbursements of 85% of the value of their losses.
3. Any assistance package should also include changes to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) charter to allow USDA to disburse aid to help with the removal and disposal of livestock as a result of interruptions to the supply chain.
4. Aid for pork producers should include provisions to fund investments in animal health laboratories in order to help track disease and develop vaccines to protect livestock against emerging animal diseases.
“The current COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the need for significant investments in the nation’s animal health infrastructure in order to respond to and prepare for future zoonotic disease outbreaks,” the letter said.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) held a teleconference on Monday to discuss the significant challenges producers are facing as a result of the pandemic.
“NPPC thanks Sens. Smith, Klobuchar and Durbin for seeking a critical lifeline to U.S. pork producers, many of whom are struggling to weather this crisis,” NPPC said in a statement. “U.S. pork producers need significant and swift Congressional help, otherwise thousands of hog farmers are likely to go out of business, leading to consolidation and contraction of the U.S. pork industry.”
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