WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the USDA Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative, which would provide aid to agricultural producers and businesses, including chicken growers, who have yet to receive financial assistance during the pandemic. This decision comes two weeks after U.S. Senators Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Chris Coons, D-Del., co-chairs of the Senate Chicken Caucus, led a bipartisan, bicameral effort, along with U.S. Representatives Steve Womack, R-Ark., and John Rose, R-Tenn., requesting that a rulemaking process to administer aid set aside for contract chicken growers in a December 2020 coronavirus relief package be completed as quickly as possible.
“I appreciate the USDA for hearing our concerns and making this aid a priority,” said Senator Wicker. “Soon, chicken farmers across the country who experienced severe economic disruption will be able to access essential assistance.”
“Contract chicken growers in Delaware and across the country are struggling to make ends meet after suffering significant losses due to production cuts during the pandemic,” said Senator Coons. “So many family farms and businesses in Delaware will be relieved to hear USDA’s announcement that payments for producers who have not yet received federal assistance will move forward within 60 days. The Senate Chicken Caucus fought to make these hardworking growers eligible for relief payments through the last COVID relief bill so they could receive compensation for losses they incurred at no fault of their own. I commend USDA for pushing to distribute this assistance as quickly as possible.”
“Arkansas poultry growers help feed Americans and are a vital part of our food supply,” said Representative Womack. “The pandemic severely impacted the work of our family farmers and agriculture producers. Assistance was necessary to navigate challenges and financial losses faced. Livelihoods are on the line, and the delays in delivering these payments created more uncertainty. I’m pleased USDA recognized our concerns, and I will continue advocating for our nation’s farmers.”
“Tennessee’s contract poultry growers were hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with many small and family-owned farms suffering substantial financial losses, threatening their businesses’ survival,” said Representative Rose. “I am glad to hear the USDA is stepping up to provide this overdue relief and I look forward to working with them to get this aid to our contact growers as quickly as possible.”
Contract growers, who raise chickens for poultry processing companies, have not yet received federal assistance during the pandemic. Many contract chicken growers suffered substantial losses when processing facilities were forced to reduce or suspend production during the pandemic threatening many smaller and family-owned farms.
On December 21, 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which included funding for USDA to provide direct payments for contract chicken growers who previously had been excluded from assistance provided by USDA.
Earlier this month, Coons and Wicker sent a letter to the USDA requesting that a rulemaking process to administer direct payments to contract chicken growers be completed as quickly as possible.
The USDA’s new Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative will begin providing funds to affected farmers within 60 days.