Members of Congress Ask USDA to Speed Aid to Chicken Growers

The U.S. Senate Chicken Caucus, including co-chairs Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Reps. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and John Rose (R-Tenn.), and 57 other members of congress sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Friday. The letter asked for the direct payment aid allotted to chicken farmers related to the COVID-19 pandemic to be distributed to the farmers as quickly as possible.

“Contract growers, who raise chickens for poultry processing companies, have not yet received federal assistance during the pandemic,” said a press release from Coons. “Many contract chicken growers suffered substantial losses when processing facilities were forced to reduce or suspend production during the pandemic threatening many smaller and family-owned farms.”

The letter explained that the COVID-19 pandemic has “severely affected the bottom lines of agricultural producers,” and specifically has impacted chicken growers in the states the members of congress represent. Under the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, resources were reportedly allocated for support to American Farmers and contract chicken growers, which were not included in previous COVID-19-related aid allocations, so they have not received any aid from the federal government at this point.

“As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to assist farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), we respectfully request that the Department expedite the rulemaking process to administer direct payments to contract chicken growers,” the members of Congress said in the letter.

The members of Congress recognized in the letter that determining losses and payment amounts is difficult, but encouraged the USDA to begin this process swiftly.

Contract growers for hogs, poultry, and eggs were authorized to receive COVID-19 aid payments in December 2020, if they suffered a loss in revenue.  The payments were put on hold when President Joe Biden took office as part of a review of recent decisions. In late March, the USDA announced that it was making financial assistance available through a $6 billion program called USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers.