December 6, 2021
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20250
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I commend the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for their recent announcement issuing $270 million to eligible livestock contract growers who applied for pandemic assistance through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) payments.
Despite this critical investment, I am concerned that United States pork producers, who are not contract growers, are continuing to experience ongoing financial burdens as a result of COVID-19 market disruptions. As you know, on January 15, 2021, USDA announced that eligible swine producers would receive additional assistance through a “top up” payment of $17 per head, increasing the total CFAP 1 inventory payment to $34 per head. However, since then, USDA has given no indication of when and how they will distribute the “top up” payment saying they want to “re-evaluate the program.” On July 13, 2021, USDA announced that up to $50 million in pandemic assistance funds would be provided to small hog producers who use the spot market or negotiated price. We have yet to see how these funds will be distributed as well. Pork producers are still feeling the economic hardships of the pandemic and look forward to USDA carrying out these programs.
On October 7, 2021, you testified before the House Agriculture Committee on the state of the livestock industry. In response, I submitted the following question for the record on October 15, 2021:
“Secretary Vilsack, for several months now USDA has held pork producers in the balance as they await a formerly promised “top-up” payment of $17 per head. Members and staff have requested additional information several times and to my knowledge, not received a clear answer. Can you please provide a specific update as to the status of these payments and details as to when U.S. swine producers will receive formal notice regarding this payment?”
As of December 2, 2021, this question for the record has still not been answered. With this in mind, I respectfully request answers to the following questions:
- When will USDA release guidance on how U.S. hog farmers can receive their promised “top up” payment of $17 per head as well as the $50 million for small hog producers?
- What modifications is USDA making to the “top-up” program as announced by the Trump Administration and what are these changes designed to accomplish?
- Hog farmers often cap out of the $250,000 payment limit quickly due to their higher volume of livestock. Will a new payment limit be issued for swine producers to better ensure producers receive adequate financial assistance?
I encourage USDA to support our hardworking farmers and provide them with the much-needed financial relief that was promised. I thank you for your timely consideration of this matter and look forward to working with you on this important issue.
Member of Congress