Assistance gives pork producers relief from situation

Pete Temple
Express Sports/Ag Editor

     State and federal programs geared toward farmers, particularly pork producers, who are feeling the strain of a backed-up food supply chain caused by COVID-19, are providing some relief.

     “They are all sending information, and they want us to know that they are there to help,” Jones County Pork Producers Secretary Abby Jaeger said. “I feel like we’re being supported all the way around. It’s just hard to feel the support when you’re in it so heavily.”

     Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig addressed the issue as part of a Gov. Kim Reynolds press conference May 28.

     “One of the side effects has been the massive disruption in the food supply chain,” Naig said. “Some (animal processing plants) have shut down, and nearly all of them have significantly reduced their processing capacity to accommodate for workers who have tested positive.

     “This has resulted in farmers struggling to find harvest capacity for their animals for meat. The low point occurred the first of May; by then we were running about 50,000 pigs short per day. By mid-May approximately 600,000 pigs were backed up on Iowa’s farms.

     “Producers are exploring every option, but that backlog is larger than those solutions can address.”

     Some of those options include changing feed rations to slow the rate of gain, finding new markets, selling directly to consumers, and making donations through the state’s Pass the Pork program.

     All of these, Jaeger said, have helped somewhat.

     “Loads are growing, just not at the rate everyone would like them to,” she said. “It’s getting better, but we’re not quite there yet.”

     In some cases, producers are left with euthanizing animals as the only option, Naig said.

     “Euthanasia is always the last resort,” he said. “A pork producer’s goal is to raise healthy animals to feed others. It’s what they do. So euthanasia goes against everything that they do every day and everything that they stand for.”

     To help farmers who are left with this option, Naig announced the launch of a disposal assistance program for pork producers affected by COVID-19, through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship. The program, he said, will provide financial resources to help cover the cost of disposing of animals in an environmentally-sound way.

     The department is offering $40 per approved animal to help cover some of the disposal costs for market-ready hogs. Producers must provide documentation, including proof of proper disposal, and an affidavit from their herd veterinarian confirming impending welfare issues, to receive funding.

     The funding will be available in at least three rounds. Each approved applicant will receive funding for at least 1,000 animals and up to 30,000 animals per round.

     Applications for the first round of funding were accepted May 26-29. Applications were being taken for the second round beginning June 1, and third round applications begin June 9. Information is available at

     Another form of relief comes from the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which provides direct payments to offset impacts from the pandemic.

     Through CFAP, the USDA is making available $16 billion for vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five percent or greater price decline due to COVID-19, and face additional significant marketing costs as a result of lower demand, surplus production, and disruptions to shipping patterns and the orderly markering of commodities.

     “We know Iowa producers are facing a tough time now, and we are making every effort to provide much needed support as quickly as possible,” said Amanda De Jong, state executive director for the Farm Service Agency (FSA) in Iowa.

     Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA office. Those who use the online calculator tool will be able to print off a pre-filled CFAP application, sign, and submit either electronically or via hand delivery.

     Contact and other information is available online at, or by calling 877-508-8364.



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