The National Pork Producers Council held a press conference last week featuring producers from different parts of the country who discussed the impact COVID-19 is having on their operations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture rolled out the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which features direct payments to help farmers across rural America. NPPC President Howard “A.V.” Roth says they appreciate the assistance, but the scope of challenges the hog industry faces is much greater than that.
“We appreciate that CFAP appears to reach more pork producer than those included in USDA’s trade retaliation relief, but it falls short of what is needed to sustain thousands of impacted producers. Our hog farmers are facing a significant financial and emotional crisis and are set to lose more than $5 billion collectively as the value of hogs have plummeted. They also face staggering costs associated with depopulation and disposal.”
Roth says the pork producers are asking the Senate to pass the agricultural provisions in the HEROES Act, recently passed by the House of Representatives.
“NPPC continues to work with Congress and the administration on efforts to help hog producers get through this crisis. That’s why we’re urging the Senate to adopt companion legislation that includes the livestock agricultural measures included in the HEROES Act. Unlike the USDA program, the HEROES Act does not mandate payment restrictions, ensuring that relief is extended to those farmers who are most heavily invested in pork production. We ask that the USDA maintain this structure in any implementation.”
Mike Paustian is an Iowa pork farmer and president of the Iowa Pork Producers. He says the challenges isn’t just because of low prices. Farmers also need help because they’re having to euthanize a lot of hogs that have nowhere to go for processing. That’s why the NPPC is asking for money to help with pig disposal.
“We’re all losing money with every single pig we send to market right now, so we need to stop that bleeding at some point. But for the farmers that are being forced into euthanization, it’s a double-whammy. Not only are they getting nothing for that animal they’ve spent considerable time and resources on but they’re also incurring the costs for euthanasia and disposal.”
Paustian says they realize government won’t be able to cover all their losses. It’s more about keeping generations of families on their farms and producing pork for domestic and international consumption.
“CFAP is putting a little over $1 billion back towards producers, so we’ve obviously got a way to go to get back to that $5 billion mark, and none of us are saying everyone needs to be made whole through this. My concern is that we need to throw a lifeline to these family farms to just help them hang on and get through this until things can turn around, because history has shown us that once these family farms shut down and have to call it quits, that’s the end of that family’s legacy and that’s the end of their story.”