Q: Are contract producers eligible for pandemic relief assistance?
A: The market disruptions along the food supply chain last year created havoc from farm to fork, impacting producers, processors, grocers, restaurants and consumers. When COVID-19 shutdown processing facilities, the bottleneck resulted in a humanitarian disaster and financial hardship for many livestock farmers and poultry producers. As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I led efforts to deliver pandemic relief to help Iowa farmers stay afloat and make ends meet. Our turkey growers, egg producers and hog farmers not only put wholesome, high-quality food on America’s tables, they create jobs and economic vitality in communities across our state. When the USDA rolled out its Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) using money Congress approved last year, there were some noticeable gaps that would result in some producers falling through the cracks. That’s why I made a bipartisan push calling on the USDA to ensure swine owners and contract producers are eligible for pandemic relief assistance Congress secured for them, including an indemnity program for depopulated herds. Alarm bells went off this summer when the Biden administration neglected to mention pork producers in its announcement finalizing eligibility details. We also reminded the USDA to come through on promised top-up payments for swine owners who received financial help in the first round of CFAP assistance. According to rules announced during the Trump administration, pork producers approved for CFAP1 payments would be automatically eligible for an additional $17 per head, bringing the total payment to $34 per head. To date, producers have heard crickets from the Biden administration on the additional payment. I’m glad the USDA recently announced expanded flexibility for eligible contract producers in CFAP2, including livestock farmers and poultry producers. The announcement clarifies contract producers may choose to base relief payments on 2018 or 2019 revenues to better reflect their operation’s losses. It also added eligibility for contract producers who began their farming operation in 2020. Sign-up for CFAP2 is open; producers must apply or modify their applications by an Oct. 12, 2021 deadline. Contact your local FSA office at farmers.gov/service-locator or get one-on-one support by calling (877) 508-8364. In addition, eligible producers who depopulated poultry or livestock herds due to insufficient processing facilities from March 1 to Dec. 26, 2020 may apply for financial assistance through the Pandemic Livestock Indemnity Program (PLIP). The USDA will compensate eligible producers for 80 percent of the loss, calculated on a single payment rate per head. Note payments from CFAP1 and CFAP2 will be subtracted for the same inventory. These applications must be received by the Sept. 17, 2021 deadline. Learn more about the PLIP payment structure here.
Q: What is your EATS Act all about?
A: Iowa is the number one pork producer and egg producer in the nation. We’ve been top dog in the hog business for decades. According to a study of Iowa’s gross domestic product in 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis valued pork production in our state at $7.6 billion, accounting for nearly 150,000 jobs in Iowa. The Iowa Pork Producers Association tallied more than $40 billion in sales activity in 2019, including approximately $14 billion from production; more than $22 billion from slaughter; and, another $5 billion in processing. According to the Iowa Egg Council, nearly one of six eggs produced in the U.S. comes from Iowa. A 2019 study by Iowa State University (ISU) found our state’s value-added chicken egg industry generated 7,084 total jobs for a payroll reaching $450 million. The national Egg Industry Center, administered by ISU, estimates eggs produced and marketed from Iowa in 2018 were valued at more than $1.3 billion. These numbers underscore how consequential the economic fall-out was to our pork and egg industries from pandemic-related disruptions in 2020. As Iowa’s senior U.S. Senator and lifelong family farmer, I work tirelessly to ensure farmers’ voices are heard loud and clear at the policymaking tables in Washington, D.C. In addition to my work to rein in anticompetitive practices in the meat and poultry industries, expand exports and invest in infrastructure to get Iowa products to market, I’m riding herd on infringement of the Constitution’s commerce clause. For example, California’s Prop 12 would dictate how Iowa pork producers raise their pigs to sell pork products in California and how egg producers raise their laying hens to sell eggs in California. Sen. Joni Ernst and I joined forces to secure a legislative fix. The EATS Act would prevent states and local jurisdictions from regulating the production and distribution of agricultural products in interstate commerce. Our bill would protect Iowa farmers and producers and empower them to operate their farms and tend their livestock with autonomy. When consumers in California realize Prop 12 will force them to pay as much as $17 for a pound of bacon, they’ll have to dig a lot deeper into their wallets to enjoy a California BLAT (bacon-lettuce-avocado-tomato) sandwich. California voters might not realize it, but I’m saving their bacon by championing Iowa pork producers. It remains to be seen if we’ll see eye to eye before pigs fly.