USDA to pay farmers who euthanized animals amid meat plant shutdowns

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USDA will pay 80 percent of the fair market value for the livestock, as well as the cost of depopulation and disposal.

Farmers who euthanized hogs, chickens and turkeys because of limited meat processing capacity during the Covid-19 pandemic can apply for federal aid for their losses starting next week, the Agriculture Department announced on Tuesday.

Key details: USDA will pay 80 percent of the fair market value for the livestock, as well as the cost of depopulation and disposal. The aid is part of the department’s ongoing Pandemic Assistance for Producers effort and was authorized by the fiscal 2021 appropriations package enacted in December.

Coronavirus outbreaks at slaughterhouses early in the pandemic led to widespread plant closures and a backlog of livestock ready for slaughter — forcing farmers to euthanize millions of animals.

“Throughout the pandemic, we learned very quickly the importance and vulnerability of the supply chain to our food supply,” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “Many livestock producers had to make the unfortunate decision to depopulate their livestock inventory when there simply was no other option. This targeted assistance will help livestock and poultry producers that were among the hardest hit by the pandemic alleviate some financial burden from these losses.”

Producers can request assistance if they put down swine, chickens or turkeys between March 1 and Dec. 26 of last year and had legal ownership of the animals at the time they were killed.

Meatpackers, poultry dealers and contract growers aren’t eligible for aid, nor are producers with more than $900,000 in annual income from 2016 through 2018.

What’s next: Farmers can apply for aid from July 20 until Sept. 17. Most of the money is likely to go toward pork producers, USDA said.