Contract pork producers around the country have been asking since January exactly what happened to the "top-up" payments announced by the Trump administration.
At least four U.S. senators now are asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack exactly what happened to that aid. Iowa's two Republican senators -- Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst -- joined Minnesota's two Democratic senators -- Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith -- to send a letter to Vilsack on the situation.
USDA on Jan. 15, 2021, in the final days of the Trump administration, announced new aid under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) that included a "top-up" payment of $17 per head for swine producers under CFAP-1. The aid stemmed from the December 2020 passage of coronavirus relief in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. Those late aid announcements were put on hold when the change of administrations occurred.
Back in March, USDA stated that aid for swine producers and contract growers under CFAP Additional Assistance remain on hold and are likely to require modifications to the regulation as part of the broader evaluation and future assistance; however, FSA will continue to accept applications from interested producers.
On July 13, USDA announced aid to producers that were forced to euthanize animals in spring of 2020 because of closed packing plants. At that time, USDA also stated that $50 million would be set aside for pandemic assistance to "small hog producers that use the spot market or negotiate prices." USDA cited pork industry analysis projecting that packing plant disruptions mostly affected "small hog producers and especially those that sell on the spot market or negotiate prices, bear a disproportionate share of losses."
The senators in their letter Monday pointed out the Consolidated Appropriations Act directs USDA to make payment to contract growers of livestock and poultry to cover revenue losses. Contract swine producers were not part of USDA's aid announcement on June 15, which included poultry growers but not pork producers.
The senators noted in their letter that administrations take time to evaluate programs when transitions occur. "However, over the past eight months, USDA has given no indication as to how it plans to put these funds to use. Our producers are still feeling the economic hardships of the pandemic and look forward to USDA carrying out this program."
The letter urged USDA to make contract swine producers eligible for aid provided by Congress, "and ensure that they are fully aware of their eligibility."
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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