Bipartisan senators seek funding for pork producers forced to euthanize livestock

Several bipartisan senators are calling on Congress to provide additional funding to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help pork producers forced to depopulate livestock while restaurants, schools and other venues are closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The senators said that pork producers normally send 2 million pigs to market a week but, with 20 percent of the market closed due to stay-at-home orders, around 400,000 animals per week must be disposed of in some manner other than processing.

“Given these significant social and economic consequences, we must prioritize funding in the next coronavirus response package to include indemnifying 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,” Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and others wrote to congressional leadership on Monday.

The senators also noted that processing plants are closing due to coronavirus outbreaks, curtailing production of products, and won’t reopen until companies improve safety measures. Smithfield, the world’s biggest pork processor, closed a South Dakota plant that accounts for up to 5 percent of the U.S. pork production, for over two weeks. It has since reopened.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue last week predicted that U.S. meatpacking plants will fully reopen in the next seven to 10 days, following President Trump’s executive order requiring processing plants to stay open.

“The downstream impact of idled plants is full farms, creating an animal welfare crisis due to overcrowding and the challenge of providing enough feed and water available to each animal,” the senators wrote. 

Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) also signed the letter.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Ben Sasse chain Charles Grassley Chuck Grassley Coronavirus Deb Fischer Dick Durbin Donald Trump farmers food supply Gary Peters John Hoeven Joni Ernst Josh Hawley Kevin Cramer Mike Rounds pork production Ron Wyden Sonny Perdue Tina Smith Todd Young

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