With meat processing plants remaining shuttered by the coronavirus — despite President Donald Trump using the Defense Production Act to keep them open — farmers will have to euthanize up to 10 million pigs by mid-September, an industry group warns.
The National Pork Producers Council called its estimate a “tragic reality.”
“Housing these hogs is not an option as younger hogs coming up through the supply chain need someplace to go for care and feeding,” the industry group wrote in a message reported by CBS News. “Producers face a wrenching and tragic choice; watch their mature animals suffer because they can’t care for them or euthanize them. The only humane option is to euthanize them, a tragedy for farmers who work to produce food for people.”
The group is asking Congress for $1.73 billion to address the problem.
“Without this and other assistance – including expanded direct payments to producers without restrictions to address severe losses as marketed hog values have plummeted – thousands of pork producers will be forced to liquidate their farms and other assets,” the group wrote. “Reduced pork production and significant industry consolidation will follow, leading to higher food prices for consumers.”
Iowa farmers raise one-third of the pigs in the United States, with more than 6,200 farms producing nearly 50 million hogs per year, CBS News reported.
"Killing animals and the food they represent 'goes against every instinct [farmers] have,' NPPC assistant vice president of communications Jim Monroe told CBS News.
"Their commitment is to raise these animals for the food supply and to invest in their care, and, for reasons you have no control over to be forced to euthanize them is a tragic choice for them. I think it's particularly stressful."
According to NPPC, hog farmers across the country are expected to lose $5 billion this year due to coronavirus closures.
A new relief package introduced by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday includes "emergency assistance" to support farmers forced to euthanize livestock — funding needed to ensure a large number of farms can remain in operation.
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