Senators Prod USDA for Pandemic Payments to Contract Growers


By Chuck Abbott, Successful Farming - 6/8/2021


Ten weeks ago, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack restarted the USDA’s coronavirus relief program for farmers and ranchers. But payments to contract growers, the farmers who produce hogs, poultry, and eggs under contract for the owner of the animals, remain on hold and lawmakers from poultry states are getting impatient.


“We respectfully request that the department expedite the rule-making process to administer direct payments to contract chicken growers,” said 17 senators and 44 representatives in a letter to Vilsack. “We are concerned by the fact that these chicken growers still have not received federal assistance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.” The letter was organized by the Senate Chicken Caucus; Sen. Chris Coons, from President Biden’s home state of Delaware, is a co-chair.


Congress authorized payments to contract growers of hogs, poultry, and eggs as part of the $900 billion coronavirus package enacted in December 2020. The Trump administration said in early January that those producers were eligible for a combined $1.98 billion if they suffered a loss in revenue due to market disruptions and COVID-19 outbreaks at processing plants. Payments were put on hold as part of a government-wide freeze in late January by the incoming Biden administration on recently issued regulations.


Vilsack unveiled the rebranded...