South Dakota lawmakers urge ag department to assist pork producers
South Dakota lawmakers are leading a bipartisan effort pushing the U.S. Department of agriculture to take immediate action to assist pork producers amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson sent a letter to Ag Sec. Sonny Perdue, asking him to help producers and maintain the food supply chain.
This comes after the Smithfield Foods plant in Sioux Falls temporarily closed due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Several other meat process plants in the Midwest have also temporarily shuttered.
Dozens of other lawmakers signed the letter, including Sen. Mike Rounds, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Tina Smith, Rep. Jim Hagedorn, and Sen. Joni Ernst.
Dear Secretary Perdue,
We write to bring your attention to the closure of the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, SD and to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take action to assist pork producers and maintain the pork supply chain.
On April 12, 2020, Smithfield Foods announced it will indefinitely close its Sioux Falls plant due to a COVID-19 outbreak. This plant provides approximately 130 million servings of pork per week, and we are concerned about the impact this closure will have not only on the plant employees, but also on the more than 500 independent family farms who supply the plant.
To assist pork producers during this difficult time, we request that USDA conduct pork purchases and provide financial assistance to producers. We request that assistance be provided in an equitable manner that recognizes the various challenges pork producers are facing due to COVID-19 and limits market distortions.
We hope this component of the supply chain is restored quickly. However, in the event that producers are unable to schedule harvest of their hogs, we request that you consider how to use your existing authorities and available funds to compensate producers for losses. Furthermore, we request that Natural Resource Conservation Service consider how to provide financial and technical assistance through the Environmental Quality Incentives Program for affected producers, if needed.
It is critically important that we maintain our pork supply chain to ensure that consumers continue to have access to high-quality pork products in grocery stores and supermarkets throughout the country, especially during the COVID-19 crisis. Thank you for your continued efforts to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on U.S. agriculture and for your prompt attention to our request.