If there is one thing farmers have never been afraid of, it's hard work. Every day, we do whatever it takes to grow our crops and raise our hogs, knowing that we are playing a vitally important role in feeding American families.
But our farmers are hurting right now.
What was supposed to be a bright year for hog farmers, following the successful resolution of various trade disputes, quickly turned bleak with the arrival of COVID-19.
The National Pork Producers Council estimates that our hog farmers will collectively lose $5 billion this year due to the pandemic. The widespread closings of schools and restaurants significantly reduced commercial demand for pork, while processing plant slowdowns and shutdowns left hog farmers with nowhere to send their animals. This was a double whammy that will continue to impact hog farmers well into next year.
The impact is being felt by farms, big and small, across the country. Many farms are losing money, and others are being forced to close altogether. That's why it is critical that Congress quickly move forward with a COVID-19 relief package that includes specific relief for our nation's livestock farmers.
The NPPC has identified several pressing needs: 1) compensation for euthanized and donated hogs; 2) additional funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have appropriately assisted and shared resources with their public health partners; 3) modifications to the Commodity Credit Corp. charter so a pandemic-driven national emergency qualifies for funding; 4) additionally funds for direct payments to producers without restriction; and 5) extension of the Paycheck Protection Program with modifications that make it more accessible to more farmers.
These are critically important measures that Congress needs to enact to help save our family farms — and the rural communities that rely so heavily on agriculture to drive the local economy.
We are already seeing the pandemic's impact on our industry from the rural fields of eastern North Carolina to the Midwest communities in the heartland of America. If significant assistance is not provided, we will lose hog farms big and small, upsetting the healthy, dynamic and highly competitive pork production system that has served our farmers, the rural economy and consumers so well.
The North Carolina pork industry employs more than 45,000 people, and more than 80% of the hog farms are family owned. If Congress doesn't act soon, we could see consolidation, causing significant harm to our rural economy, while limiting consumer choice. No one benefits from that outcome.
We appreciate previous relief extended by the administration and Congress, but unfortunately it has not stabilized our farm sector. We need immediate action to offset the severe impact of COVID on a key element of the rural economy.
As we prepare to enter the ninth month of this pandemic, Congress must act with a greater sense of urgency to help hog farmers weather this crisis.