U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Rural Development and Energy, issued the following statement after the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced plans to establish a coordination center to help producers—like so many in Iowa—affected by the meat processing plant closures:
“Iowa’s pork industry is in dire straits. With a system designed for just-in-time delivery, this important sector of our state’s economy has been turned on its head due to meat processing plant closures across Iowa, and the Midwest. Our producers are now facing difficult and devastating decisions that can lead to them literally throwing out their livelihoods. After speaking with Secretary Perdue this week, I’m thankful to see him put plans in place to help our producers during this trying time. This is a good step that will provide guidance, support, and resources to Iowa pork producers.
“Now more than ever, we must protect the safety of our workers and the integrity of our food supply – from farmer to grocery shelf to table – using an all-hands-on deck approach. I will continue to push the administration to make this a top priority because a plant closure does not just affect the employees working the line and their families, but it reaches all the way back to the farmer and forward to the consumer,” said Senator Joni Ernst.
Last night, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced plans to establish a National Incident Coordination Center to provide direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market as a result of processing plant closures due to COVID-19. Going forward, APHIS’ Coordination Center, State Veterinarians, and other state officials will be assisting to help identify potential alternative markets if a producer is unable to move animals, and if necessary, advise and assist on depopulation and disposal methods.
According to USDA, APHIS will mobilize and deploy assets of the National Veterinary Stockpile as needed and secure the services of contractors that can supply additional equipment, personnel, and services, much as it did during the large-scale Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza emergency in 2015. In addition, USDA’s Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) will be providing state level technical assistance to producers and will provide cost share assistance under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) in line with program guidelines for disposal. Learn more here.
Earlier this week, Ernst – in a letter to the vice president – called 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 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.
Since helping secure critical provisions for Iowa agriculture in the bipartisan Phase 3 relief package, Ernst has also:
- Called on USDA to provide immediate assistance to cattle producers,
- Pressed USDA to get additional relief to the biofuels industry through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), and
- Urged USDA to provide relief and support specific for the dairy farmers and industry.
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.
Last week, 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.