After Push from Rep. Angie Craig, Turkey Growers Included in Relief Resources
Earlier this year, U.S. Rep. Angie Craig led her colleagues from the Minnesota Delegation in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue pushing for turkey growers to have access to any COVID-19 relief resources available to agriculture producers. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the availability of $14 billion in direct payments to farmers, including turkey growers, who had been excluded in previous relief.
“I was proud to advocate for Minnesota’s turkey growers earlier this year and I’m pleased that they will be included in the next round of the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program,” said Rep. Craig. “Livestock producers across Minnesota are seeing unprecedented losses. We must do everything we can to support them and protect their livelihoods during this uncertain time.”
You can read Rep. Craig’s full letter requesting relief below.
Dear Secretary Perdue,
We write today concerned about the future of the domestic poultry industry, particularly as it relates to our nation’s turkey growers. In Minnesota, Jennie-O Turkey has shuttered plants,  drawing concerns about future impacts on turkey growers. The livestock sector is seeing unprecedented losses, which is irreparably impacting countless families and producers in Minnesota. In our state, many independent turkey growers are responsible for all of their input costs, putting them at a greater financial risk. Those growers deserve your help, including the ability to receive Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) funds because of their losses due to COVID-19.
Plant closures remain a growing threat to our turkey growers. While we recognize the need to reopen these plants, we must also protect the health and safety of workers and their families. As farmers make difficult decisions about depopulation due to these closures, we need a strong coordinated national effort to safely protect our natural resources. We encourage USDA to provide additional assistance to find processing capacity and aid in disposal of depopulated birds as needed.
Turkey growers were also unfortunately left out of the USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program. Because of this, we ask the department to prioritize turkey purchases in Section 32 and other purchase programs. These purchases are needed to stabilize the market and help provide food to people in need.
When the USDA announced initial plans for CFAP, our turkey growers were excluded. While demand increased for many poultry products at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, independent turkey growers remain at risk to lose significant income. Given the numerous farmer owned cooperatives and independent growers, we ask that the agency clearly define the requirements an independent poultry/turkey grower or an independent producer, including cooperative members, must show in order to successfully apply for CFAP funds. We ask that the USDA consider these business structures when making decisions about eligibility for assistance.