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Producers need unified voice asking Congress for assistance

hogs being moved
Without prompt government help, thousands of pork producers may go out of business, causing economic dislocation throughout the country.

Hog farmers in Minnesota and throughout the country are in crisis. We have endured trials and tribulations during the COVID-19 pandemic that are threatening the survival of multi-generational family farms. The emotional and financial toll has greatly impacted farmers. That burden extends to our rural communities and our nation's economy. While packing plants are approaching their new full capacity, the backlog of pigs is daunting.

As farmers, we have done everything we can to avoid depopulation. Many of us worked with nutritionists and adjusted to holding diets for our pigs or got creative with finding extra barn space. We know hundreds of thousands of pigs were given away, donated or sold at extreme discounts. Many farms went to social media to sell pigs directly to consumers.

Farmers are resilient and innovative in times of adversity. Unfortunately, that ability to adapt and move forward might not be enough to overcome the challenges posed by the COVID-19 human health crisis. With more than $5 billion in losses expected this year for pig farmers, an infusion of money is critical. Farmers have experienced extreme price volatility and overall value for market animals has plummeted. While we've weathered market volatility before, planning is extremely difficult, especially when many of us are taking it day-by-day. Thankfully, much-needed help may soon be on the way.

David Mensink, Minnesota Pork Producers Association president

David Mensink, Minnesota Pork Producers Association president

The Minnesota Pork Producers Association, National Pork Producers Council and our allied partners continue to work in Washington to help legislators understand how urgently we need help. There is promising legislation that, if enacted, would provide a critical lifeline to help pork producers weather this crisis.

Earlier this month, Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Richard Burr (R-NC), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Thom Tillis (R-NC) introduced the RELIEF for Producers Act of 2020, which would compensate farmers who are forced to euthanize or donate animals that can't be processed into the food supply as a result of COVID-19, among other provisions. MPPA and NPPC would like to thank the Senators for introducing the bill, and we'd also like to thank Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) for creating momentum for additional federal assistance for hog farmers. Peterson was a champion of House legislation that includes compensation for euthanized and donated hogs, as well as additional direct payments for hog farmers without payment restriction mandates. We need Congress to come together quickly on a final COVID-relief bill that includes these provisions.

While many people and organizations are working to get this legislation to the finish line and on the president's desk, there is still work that needs to be done. We can all continue advocating for farmers and the pork industry by reaching out to our lawmakers. Talk with elected officials at the local, state and national levels. We've seen increased interest from county commissioners and state legislators seeking to support pig farmers during this crisis. Call on them to communicate the need for federal government assistance for farmers. If you have production partners or vendors, have them contact elected officials. When we have a resounding, unified voice, we can make a lot of progress.

Since the COVID pandemic began, pork producers here in Minnesota and around the country have been navigating this unprecedented crisis, doing all we can to hold back the floodgates and prevent farm closures. Without prompt government help, thousands of pork producers may go out of business, causing economic dislocation throughout the country. The time for Congress to act is now.

David Mensink is president of the Minnesota Pork Producers Association and operates Mensink Farm near Preston in Fillmore County.

Source: David Mensink, who is solely responsible for the information provided, and wholly owns the information. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset. The opinions of this writer are not necessarily those of Farm Progress/Informa.
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