Iowa officials call for immediate assistance for pork producers

Gov. Kim Reynolds and other officials requested immediate federal assistance for Iowa's pork industry, including aid in euthanizing hogs and offsetting losses incurred by farmers.

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Shivansh Ahuja

A farm in Waukee is seen on Wednesday, October 9, 2019.

Caleb McCullough, Assistant Politics Editor


Gov. Kim Reynolds, along with other state officials, asked for immediate federal assistance for Iowa’s pork producers in a letter addressed to Vice President Mike Pence and the White House Coronavirus Task Force on Monday.

The letter requests that the task force use all available authorities, including invoking the Defense Production Act, to keep pork processing plants open and reopen closed plants as quickly as possible while also keeping safety measures in place.

The letter was signed by Reynolds, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig.

Several meat-packing facilities around the midwest have closed lately amid safety concerns as COVID-19 outbreaks have popped up at the facilities. A Tyson plant employing nearly 3,000 people in Waterloo closed on April 22 indefinitely following an outbreak at the plant.

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Reynolds has been resistant to taking executive action to close some of Iowa’s meatpacking plants amid rising criticism, saying they are essential to the country’s food supply chain.

Additionally, the letter requests that resources be deployed to assist in the euthanizing of hogs, a reality that Reynolds said was imminent in a press conference on April 20.

According to the letter, Iowa’s pork processing capacities have been reduced by 25 percent, which is resulting in a backup on farms when pigs have nowhere to be processed.

“At current capacity levels, there are 700,000 pigs across the nation that cannot be processed each week and must be humanely euthanized,” the letter said.

The letter seeks compensation for lost hogs and the cost of euthanization for farmers that have to humanely dispose of excess animals, as well as legal immunity for farmers who take such actions and mental health assistance to farmers and veterinarians involved.

“This is an emergency in our rural communities unlike any seen in recent history,” the letter said. “Swift and decisive action will be required to preserve Iowa’s farm communities and ensure that safe, affordable and abundant food remains available in this crisis.”

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