House Members Ask USDA to Give Aid to Sheep Producers After Plant Closes

On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Livestock and Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman, Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Rep. David Rouzer (R-N.C.) wrote a letter to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requesting aid for U.S. lamb and sheep producers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were joined in the letter by the committee’s chairman and 18 other members of the committee. 

Previous to the sending of the letter, the second-largest sheep producer closed, taking with it 20 percent of the nation’s processing capacity for sheep. Successful Farming reported that the Reps. were referencing the closure of Mountain State Rosen plant in Colorado, which filed for bankruptcy and was purchased by JBS USA Holdings to be converted to a beef processing plant. Some Senators have asked the U.S. Justice Department to investigate the purchase for antitrust activity. 

“This closure,” the letter stated, “comes at a time when the sheep industry was already forecast to lose more than $350 million due to COVID-19-related market declines, and feedlots are already at peak capacity in many places … We must do everything we can to support the families, who make up the sheep industry in our states, as they w[ea]ther these significant and pressing challenges.” 

The letter asked the USDA and Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to use all available funding to help the producers find alternative processing outlets. The Representatives asked for assistance for 150 “family lamb and sheep producers” in 15 states, and expressed concern that some will not be able to process their sheep. 

“This pandemic continues to take a disproportionate toll on farmers and ranchers, and the impacts that even one processor closing has on the ability of lamb and sheep producers to get by in these tough times is something we can and should remedy,” said Subcommittee Chairman Costa in the press release. “USDA has the ability to aid these producers in finding other options for marketing and processing in a way that keeps these products flowing through the supply chain, and helps farm families get through this rough patch.”

The USDA has also been asked to give aid to pork producers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.