Iowa and Minnesota legislators sent a letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack asking the department to ensure swine producers and contract swine growers are eligible for the pandemic assistance Congress secured for them. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, joined his colleagues Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Tina Smith, D-Minn., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., in the bipartisan push to ensure contract swine growers get access to the pandemic relief they were promised.
On January 15, 2021, USDA announced Coronavirus Food Assistance Program 1 “top-up” payments for swine producers with approved CFAP 1 applications. Those approved were to automatically receive a top-up payment of $17 per head increasing the total CFAP1 inventory payment to $34 per head. Under the Biden administration, USDA placed this under review and has since provided no update.
In a hearing last week, Ernst questioned a top nominee for the USDA, Robert Bonnie, about the administration excluding contract swine growers from their announcement, requesting an explanation.
The senators write, “Our livestock and poultry contract growers have been waiting patiently for USDA to provide financial relief that so many desperately need. We’re concerned that USDA’s announcement on June 15 – that described its intent to finalize this program within 60 days – only focused on poultry growers and made no mention of providing assistance to contract swine growers.”
They go on, “We urge you to use all USDA resources at your disposal to make contract swine growers eligible for this emergency assistance provided by Congress and ensure that they are fully aware of their eligibility.”
Late last year, Congress passed a bipartisan COVID relief package that included assistance to contract livestock and poultry producers, as well as to agricultural producers, growers, processors, specialty crops, non-specialty crops, dairy, livestock and poultry. In March, USDA announced $6 billion in available funds would be used to support additional CFAP efforts.
“Additionally, many pork producers have been waiting for USDA to roll out the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program swine top-up payments that was announced in January of this year,” the senators write.
Certain contract growers are eligible for assistance through CFAP 2 under CFAP Additional Assistance, USDA says. However, the agency adds payments for contract growers are currently on hold and are likely to require modifications to the regulation as part of a broader evaluation. FSA says it will continue to accept applications from interested contract growers during this evaluation period.