The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it will establish a “coordination center” to help livestock and poultry producers hurt by coronavirus-induced meatpacking plant closures.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service will offer “direct support to producers whose animals cannot move to market” and work with state veterinarians and other public officials “to help identify potential alternative markets” as plant shutdowns increase, according to a release posted on the agency’s website.
Pat McGonegle, CEO of the Iowa Pork Producers Association, said farmers "will need help in a significant way," including culling herds, if the state continues to see a widespread loss of processing capacity.
Iowa pig producers have warned they may be forced to euthanize animals they're unable to move to packing houses. Iowa, the nation's largest pork producer, has about 25 million pigs.
"The clock is ticking … it's days not weeks" when pork producers will face destroying animals because there's no longer room for them on farms, McGonegle said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said that livestock and poultry producers face an "unprecedented emergency" after large processing plants have slowed or closed as more than 6,000 U.S. meatpacking workers have become ill or been exposed to the coronavirus.