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Coronavirus

Legislators urge USDA to assist pork producers amid COVID-19 crisis

National Hog Farmer/Kevin Schulz Steve Rommereim feels his time on pork industry leadership at the county, state and national levels has exposed him to great producers in the industry — exposure that has benefited his own operation near Alcester, S.D.
Lawmakers request pork purchases and financial assistance for producers following Smithfield Foods Sioux Falls plant closure.

Midwest lawmakers have joined together to send a bipartisan, bicameral letter to Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the USDA to take immediate action to assist the nation's pork producers and maintain the pork food supply chain amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter follows the closure of the Smithfield processing plant in Sioux Falls, S.D. and the closure of its plant in Martin City, Mo., which receives raw materials from the Sioux Falls plant.

Led by Sen. John Thune (R-SD) and Rep. Dusty Johnson (R-SD), the letter was signed by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Mike Rounds, (R-S.D.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and Reps. Kelly Armstrong (R-N.D.), Cindy Axne, (D-Iowa), Don Bacon (R-Neb.), Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), Angie Craig (D-Minn.), Tom Emmer (R-Minn.), Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa), Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.), Sam Graves (R-Mo.), Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.),Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), Dave Loebsack (D-Iowa), Billy Long (R-Mo.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), Jason Smith (R-Mo.), Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), and Ann Wagner (R-Mo.).

Dear Secretary Perdue,

We write to bring your attention to the closure of the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, SD and to urge the USDA to take action to assist pork producers and maintain the pork supply chain.

On April 12, 2020, Smithfield Foods announced it will indefinitely close its Sioux Falls plant due to a COVID-19 outbreak. This plant provides approximately 130 million servings of pork per week, and we are concerned about the impact this closure will have not only on the plant employees, but also on the more than 500 independent family farms who supply the plant.

To assist pork producers during this difficult time, we request that USDA conduct pork purchases and provide financial assistance to producers. We request that assistance be provided in an equitable manner that recognizes the various challenges pork producers are facing due to COVID-19 and limits market distortions.

We hope this component of the supply chain is restored quickly. However, in the event that producers are unable to schedule harvest of their hogs, we request that you consider how to use your existing authorities and available funds to compensate producers for losses. Furthermore, we request that Natural Resource Conservation Service consider how to provide financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for affected producers, if needed.

It is critically important that we maintain our pork supply chain to ensure that consumers continue to have access to high-quality pork products in grocery stores and supermarkets throughout the country, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Thank you for your continued efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on U.S. agriculture and for your prompt attention to our request.

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