Members of Congress Ask for Aid in Excess Animal Population Caused by COVID-19

Members of Congress wrote a letter to President Trump asking for guidance and support for livestock and poultry producers as to animal depopulation and disposal. The closure or slowdown of meatpacking plants during the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant excess of animals.

“Even as plants begin to reopen, meat and poultry plants are expected to operate below maximum capacity for the foreseeable future in order to maintain appropriate public health and worker safety precautions meaning that, unfortunately, depopulation will continue,” the letter says.

It claims that “at least 10,000 pigs are being depopulated daily” just in Minnesota. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  and the Department of Agriculture have helped deal with animal losses after other natural disasters, and they are being asked to help during COVID-19 as well.

The members, led by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson (D-Minn), said states have been helping farmers with safe disposal, but federal help is still needed. “FEMA’s immediate assistance and clear communication to its state partners is of utmost importance,” the letter says. It was signed by Foreign Agriculture Subcommittee Chairman Jim Costa and other lawmakers from Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota.

Fourteen Senators also sent a letter to congressional leaders asking for additional funding for pork producers who have been forced to depopulate their herds. “Farmers are facing an animal welfare crisis due to overcrowding and the challenge of providing enough feed and water available to each animal. There are pigs in various stages of the six month growth process that have nowhere to go,” says a press release from Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa).

The letter said funding to indemnify producers depopulating their herds should be prioritized and asks for assistance for humane euthanization and disposal. It cites a “downstream impact” of closed or reduced processing plants, full farms, overcrowding, and a challenge to provide food and water to each animal, claiming assistance now will ensure a stable pork supply in the future.

“The crisis is immediate. Pork producers send to market over two million pigs each week. If twenty percent of processing is idle, that means somewhere around 400,000 animals per week must be disposed of in some manner other than processing. Accordingly, government support is needed in the management of a sensible depopulation of the herd until plant operations stabilize,” the senators wrote.