To help needy Iowans and Iowa pork producers at the same time, a new collaborative effort was announced April 27 by the Iowa Department of Agriculture, Iowa Governor’s office and the Iowa Pork Producers Association. The program called Pass the Pork will connect Iowa pig farmers with food-insecure Iowans.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Lt. Gov. Adam Gregg and Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig say the program will help pig farmers donate hogs to Iowa food bank programs across the state. Local meat lockers will process and package the meat, and food banks will get the pork into the hands of those in need. The local lockers participating are extending their hours of operation. Pass the Pork is an initiative of the Feeding Iowans Task Force led by Gregg.
“From family farms to the family’s dinner table, our entire food supply chain in Iowa and the U.S. has been impacted by COVID-19,” Reynolds says. “This Pass the Pork effort is an innovative partnership to put Iowa pork on the tables of Iowa families in need of food security, while creating a new destination for pork which might otherwise go to waste. I’m grateful to Iowa’s pork producers, processors and others for stepping up to make this possible.”
Help for hard-hit hog industry
With major packing plants slowing their processing operations across the U.S. and some plants completely closed because of problems caused by coronavirus infections of workers, the supply of market-ready hogs is continuing to build up on farms. Hog producers are running out of room in their facilities, as pens are crowded and hog prices are low. Some producers are beginning to euthanize their market-ready hogs that are being held for an increasingly longer period of time and don’t have access to the normal marketing channel. Pass the Pork is an alternative that can help.
“At a time when Iowa pig farmers face market challenges and supply chain disruptions, they continue to look for opportunities to help people in need,” Naig says. “We are proud to partner with Iowa pig farmers, food banks and meat processors to ensure all Iowans have access to a locally produced, high-quality protein source.”
Pass the Pork will officially begin when the first donated pigs are delivered on May 1. Processing will continue in May and for as long as processing capacity and funds remain. “The supply chain issues are challenging Iowa’s pig farmers, but we also see our friends and neighbors struggling with jobs and increasing unemployment. They are wondering how they will put food on the table. This program will help bring pork to our local communities when they need it most,” says Mike Paustian, president of IPPA and a hog producer at Walcott in eastern Iowa.
How to get involved
“Food banks across Iowa are working every day to help Iowans facing food insecurity,” Gregg says. “With the dramatic increases food pantries are seeing in demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, this initiative is going to play an important role in making sure Iowa families have the food they need in these challenging times.”
The pigs for Pass the Pork are being donated by Iowa pig farmers. However, there are costs associated with the processing, storage and delivery of the pork to food banks and pantries. Iowans can contribute to the Iowa Food Bank Association to help cover these costs and future purchases of Iowa-produced pork for food bank programs.
To donate funds to help support this program, visit the Iowa Food Bank Association website at donorbox.org/passthepork. Iowa pig farmers and meat processors interested in participating in the program should contact IPPA at 515-225-7675. A summary of food resources available to those in need is at coronavirus.iowa.gov.
Disruptions across livestock sector
Problems with marketing chain disruptions now faced by pork producers are similar to those faced by cattle producers, egg producers and producers of chickens and turkeys.
“The disruptions at the meat processing facilities have a ripple effect on the entire livestock industry and food supply chain,” Naig says. “We are working to get Iowa livestock and poultry producers the technical and financial resources they need as they look at all options to market and care for their animals.”
Naig on April 27 also announced another new initiative underway to assist Iowa pork producers impacted by meat processing plant closures related to COVID-19. The Iowa Department of Ag has launched a Resources Coordination Center (RCC) to provide technical resources and information to pork producers impacted by meat processing plants that are running at limited capacity or have shut down.
Resources Coordination Center
The RCC brings public and private resources together to explore every option to help producers harvest livestock and meet the protein needs of Iowans. However, livestock farmers may need to explore euthanasia as a last resort to prevent animal welfare issues.
Through RCC, the state ag department is working with the Iowa Pork Producers Association, the Iowa Pork Industry Center at Iowa State University and ISU Extension to provide technical assistance to impacted pork producers. Additional details will be released in the coming days.
Naig says the Iowa RCC will be coordinated with programs and help from USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. The Iowa Department of Ag last week requested technical and financial assistance from APHIS. The requested financial assistance would help livestock producers recover a portion of the euthanasia and disposal costs they may incur due to disruptions in the supply chain.
“We appreciate USDA’s announcement April 24 to launch a coordination center to help bring needed resources to the states,” Naig says. “We will continue to work with our federal partners to implement solutions that meet the needs of Iowa livestock producers.”