The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is launching a disposal assistance program to help pork producers who are unable to market hogs due to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions. Producers will be paid $40 for each market-weight hog that must be destroyed.
An estimated 600,000 pigs in Iowa couldn’t be sent to pork processing plants this spring because of coronavirus-related bottlenecks. Some pigs have already been destroyed and the rest are backed up in overcrowded facilities on Iowa farms.
To qualify for the first round of funding, producers must submit their applications to the Iowa Department of Ag by May 29. The first round of applicants will be notified of approval on June 1. The first round of approved applicants must properly dispose of their animals by June 5. Disposal claims must be received by the Iowa Department of Agriculture by June 8.
The state ag department will begin accepting applications for the second and third rounds of disposal assistance on June 1 and June 9, respectively. The department is also exploring options to assist producers who have already conducted euthanasia and disposal between May 1 and May 26.
“COVID-19 has caused unprecedented, ongoing disruptions to the food supply chain,” says Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig. “Pork producers are going to extraordinary lengths to donate pork to food banks and identify other markets for their animals. But in many cases, it’s not enough to make up for the backlog happening on farms. Producers are being forced to make very difficult decisions, and this is one way the state is working to support them during these extremely challenging times.”
Worker shortages created by the COVID-19 pandemic are causing meat processing facilities to drastically reduce production. Iowa State University economists estimated as of mid-May, approximately 600,000 pigs in Iowa were unable to be harvested.
Producers are working with the Resource Coordination Center, operated by the Iowa Department of Agriculture, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Pork Industry Center and ISU Extension, to explore every option to harvest livestock. This includes changing the animals’ diets to slow the rate of growth, contacting other meat lockers and making donations to the Pass the Pork program.
When producers are unable to harvest their livestock, they may be forced to humanely euthanize their animals to prevent welfare issues. The Iowa Disposal Assistance Program will provide financial resources to help cover the cost of disposing of animals in an environmentally sound way.
The dollars for the program come from CARES Act money provided to the state of Iowa by the federal government in March. “I want to thank Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds for allocating the funding for this disposal program to provide support for our livestock producers as they deal with this unprecedented market disruption,” Naig says.
The state ag department is offering producers $40 per approved animal to help cover some of the disposal costs for market-ready hogs (weighing at least 225 pounds). Producers must provide documentation, including proof of proper disposal and an affidavit from their herd veterinarian confirming impending welfare issues, to receive funding.
3 rounds of funding
The disposal assistance funding is being made available to Iowa producers in at least three rounds. Each approved applicant will receive funding for at least 1,000 animals and up to 30,000 animals per round, depending on the number of applicants.
Naig says pigs that are euthanized could be sent to landfills, rendering plants or composted. Seeking to avoid euthanizing pigs that can’t be processed, pork producers have changed their feed to slow the animals’ weight gain, have held more pigs in crowded pens where possible and are donating pigs to food banks. “However, in many cases it’s not enough to make up for the backlog happening on farms,” he says.
Naig has asked Reynolds for $24 million for the program. It’s unclear how much money will be initially available. The most any producer will be paid is $1.2 million for up to 30,000 animals in each round.