The Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship is launching a disposal assistance program to help pork producers who are unable to harvest pigs due to COVID-19 supply chain disruptions, Iowa secretary of agriculture Mike Naig announced this week.
“COVID-19 has caused unprecedented, ongoing disruptions to the food supply chain,” Naig said. “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.”
COVID-19-related worker shortages are causing meat processing facilities to drastically reduce production. Iowa State University estimates that, as of mid-May, approximately 600,000 pigs in Iowa were unable to be harvested.
Producers are working with the agriculture department's Resource Coordination Center, the Iowa Pork Producers Assn., the Iowa Pork Industry Center and Iowa State University Extension & Outreach to explore every option to harvest livestock, including 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.
Naig thanked Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds "for allocating funding for this program to provide support for our livestock producers as they deal with this unprecedented market disruption.”
The department is offering producers $40 per approved animal to help cover some of the disposal costs for market-ready hogs (weighing at least 225 lb.). In order to receive funding, producers must provide documentation, including proof of proper disposal, and an affidavit from their herd veterinarian confirming impending welfare issues.
The disposal assistance funding will be 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.
To qualify for the first round of funding, producers must submit their applications to the Iowa Department of Agriculture between May 26 and 29. The first round of applicants will be notified of approval on June 1 and must then properly dispose of their animals by June 5. Disposal claims must be received by the Iowa Department of Agriculture by June 8.