WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), co-chairs of the Senate Chicken Caucus, and U.S. Representatives Steve Womack (R-Ark.) and John Rose (R-Tenn.) led a bipartisan, bicameral letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture requesting that a rulemaking process to administer direct payments to contract chicken growers be completed as quickly as possible. Contract growers, who raise chickens for poultry processing companies, have not yet received federal assistance during the pandemic. Many contract chicken growers suffered substantial losses when processing facilities were forced to reduce or suspend production during the pandemic threatening many smaller and family-owned farms.

The letter noted, “COVID-19 has severely affected the bottom lines of agricultural producers across the country, including many chicken growers in our home states.  On December 21, 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which included additional resources for USDA to continue supporting American farmers.  The bill also included funding for USDA to provide direct payments for contract chicken growers who previously had been excluded from assistance provided by the CFAP.  We are concerned by the fact that these chicken growers still have not received federal assistance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to assist farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), we respectfully request that the Department expedite the rulemaking process to administer direct payments to contract chicken growers,” the members of Congress requested.

A bipartisan group of 15 senators joined Coons and Wicker on sending the letter, including Tom Carper (D-Del.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

Additional House signees include Representatives Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.), Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), Trent Kelly (R-Miss.), Ben Cline (R-Va.), Austin Scott (R-Ga.), Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Buddy Carter (R-Ga.), Billy Long (R-Mo.), Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), Greg Steube (R-Fla.), Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.), French Hill (R-Ark.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.), Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), Michael Guest (R-Miss.), Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.), Dan Bishop (R-N.C.), Rick Allen (R-Ga.), Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), Jerry Carl (R-Ala.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.), Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Julia Letlow (R-La.), Dan Meuser (R-Pa.), David Rouzer (R-N.C.), Barry Moore (R-Ala.), Chuck Fleischmann (R-Tenn.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), Michelle Fischbach (R-Minn.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Mike Johnson (R-La.), David Kustoff (R-Tenn.), Pat Fallon (R-Texas), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.), Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.), Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), and John Joyce (R-Pa.).

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Secretary Vilsack: 

Thank you for your commitment to supporting American families and agricultural producers throughout their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.  As the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues to assist farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), we respectfully request that the Department expedite the rulemaking process to administer direct payments to contract chicken growers.  We also encourage you to ensure that adequate funding is available for USDA to deliver these payments in full. 

COVID-19 has severely affected the bottom lines of agricultural producers across the country, including many chicken growers in our home states.  On December 21, 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which included additional resources for USDA to continue supporting American farmers.  The bill also included funding for USDA to provide direct payments for contract chicken growers who previously had been excluded from assistance provided by the CFAP.  We are concerned by the fact that these chicken growers still have not received federal assistance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We recognize that it is challenging to determine how losses and payments should be calculated fairly, given variations in the timing of when growers receive and finish raising their flocks.  Still, we encourage you to proceed swiftly with making fair payments.

We appreciate USDA’s commitment to administering fair payments to contract chicken growers and your efforts to coordinate with industry stakeholders.  Thank you for considering our request to expedite this process.  We look forward to continuing to work with you to support our nation’s farmers. 

Sincerely, 

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