Supporting Iowa Agriculture During the COVID-19 Pandemic
A message from Secretary Naig
Dear agriculture community,
COVID-19 has impacted us all in so many ways — and now it’s disrupting our food supply chain too. But we, in agriculture, are no strangers to adversity and you are not alone. My team at the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship is fighting for you. We are advocating on your behalf at every level of the local, state and federal government.
Our top priority continues to be keeping meat processing facilities up and running to secure our food supply. Under Gov. Reynolds’s leadership, Iowa has been leading the way on testing at meat processing facilities. This helps protect the health of workers, and provides the confidence and information workers and facilities need to stay operational.
On April 27, Gov. Reynolds, Senator Grassley, Senator Ernst and I sent a letter to President Trump asking him to invoke the Defense Production Act. We were pleased when he signed an executive order requiring meat processing facilities to stay operational the next day. Secretary Perdue has instructed plants to reopen as soon as they can implement CDC/OSHA safety guidelines to protect their workers.
While this will certainly help our situation, animals are backing up on farms faster than plants are coming back online. I have spoken with multiple USDA officials to underscore the urgent need for financial assistance and supplies. On April 25, I submitted a funding request to USDA that included a proposed indemnity payment for animals that need to be euthanized, and proposed funding to help livestock producers cover depopulation and disposal costs. I also made it clear that USDA needs to expedite direct financial assistance to producers who have been impacted by market disruptions, including the egg and biofuels producers who were left out of previous emergency relief packages.
I am working with the Governor’s office and Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to request financial assistance through FEMA. These funds would help cover some of the estimated $32.4 million in disposal costs that livestock producers may occur in the coming weeks.
To create additional markets for Iowa meat products, we’re finalizing a Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) agreement with the USDA. Once the CIS is in place, participating state-inspected meat and poultry processors will be able to ship their products across state lines. Meat processors must have less than 25 employees and comply with all federal food safety, sanitation and facility regulations to be eligible.
We are also collaborating with our public and private partners to connect livestock producers with state-level resources through the Resource Coordination Center (RCC). Livestock industry experts, state agencies and technical specialists are helping producers explore every option to harvest livestock. As a last resort, the RCC will connect producers with technical resources as they work through difficult and emotional decisions, like animal welfare euthanasia and disposal.
If you are a livestock producer needing assistance, please call the RCC at (515) 725-1005, Monday through Friday between 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Or you can fill out a help form anytime at iowafarmerhelp.com and a representative from the RCC will follow up shortly.
Finally, we’re working with the Governor’s Feeding Iowans Task Force, Iowa Pork Producers Association, Iowa Meat Processors Association and the Iowa Food Bank Association to address food insecurity at the community level. The “Pass the Pork” program is just one example of these initiatives.
Through the “Pass the Pork” program, Iowa farmers are donating pigs to Iowa food bank feeding programs. Local meat processors are extending their hours of operation to process and package the pork donations to help meet the growing demand at food banks. Iowa food banks are helping get the pork into the hands of those in need.
The “Pass the Pork” program has been a tremendous success. Thanks to generous businesses and individuals, we’ve raised more than $100,000 to help cover the transportation, storage and processing costs, and future purchases of Iowa-raised meat for Iowa food bank feeding programs. We are exploring opportunities to partner with other agriculture associations on similar programs that help our producers and address food security needs.
There’s no denying this is a challenging time in agriculture but there are brighter days ahead. I will continue to work alongside our state and federal leaders to get more funding and resources to help our agriculture community recover from this pandemic. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to reach out if my office can be of assistance to you.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture