WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Chris Coons (D-Del.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), co-chairs of the Senate Chicken Caucus, led a letter to Senate leadership and the Senate Committee on Agriculture highlighting the severe impacts COVID-19 is having on the U.S. chicken industry and requesting direct assistance for chicken farmers.

“As the chicken industry in Delaware and across the country continues to cope with reduced demand and processing capacity, chicken farmers have experienced a big hit to their bottom lines. In many instances, farmers are receiving fewer birds on a less frequent basis, and in some cases, they have been forced to depopulate millions of healthy birds. Although other famers have benefited from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, chicken farmers have not received any assistance and are in desperate need of our help,” said Senator Coons. “This bipartisan coalition is requesting that any future legislation addressing the pandemic includes direct assistance for chicken farmers who have suffered losses as a result of COVID-19.”

“While we appreciate that the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act provides direct payments for agricultural producers through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), this program does not provide assistance for chicken farmers. We strongly request that any future stimulus legislation provide direct payments for chicken farmers who experienced revenue losses of at least five percent as a result of COVID-19,” wrote the senators.

A bipartisan group of 17 senators joined Senators Coons and Wicker in signing the letter, including Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Tim Scott (R-S.C.).

A copy of the letter is available here and below.

Dear Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Chairman Roberts, and Ranking Member Stabenow:

Thank you for your commitment to supporting American families and the agricultural economy throughout the COVID-19 crisis. As you are aware, COVID-19 has had devastating impacts on agricultural producers across the country, including chicken farmers in our home states. While we appreciate that the recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act provides direct payments for agricultural producers through the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), this program does not provide assistance for chicken farmers. We strongly request that any future stimulus legislation provide direct payments for chicken farmers who experienced revenue losses of at least five percent as a result of COVID-19.

The U.S. chicken industry provides an essential service in feeding Americans, who on average consume about 100 pounds of chicken meat each year. As you know, many chicken processing facilities across the country were forced to reduce or suspend production due to COVID-19. We encourage federal efforts to help processing facilities and local health officials protect employees and continue to support measures to ensure the safest working conditions possible at these facilities. As a result of reductions in chicken processing capacity, chicken farmers across the country have experienced longer waiting periods between flocks, received fewer birds to raise, and in some cases have been forced to depopulate millions of healthy birds. As a result of these circumstances, chicken farmers have suffered substantial losses in revenues and continue to face changing and uncertain demand.

The CFAP provides direct aid to producers of agricultural commodities that suffered a five percent or greater price decline between specified dates due to COVID-19. Chicken was not determined to be eligible for CFAP, in part because USDA concluded that it did not experience a five percent or greater price decline. However, it is important to note that losses suffered by contract chicken farmers, which comprise approximately 95 percent of all chicken farmers in the U.S., were not considered in this price loss assessment. For many chicken farmers, these losses represent a loss of revenues that meets or exceeds five percent.

As additional COVID-19 stimulus legislation is considered by Congress, we strongly request that any future bill provide direct payments for chicken farmers who experienced a five percent or greater loss in revenues as a result of COVID-19. We believe that the inclusion of such a provision would provide parity for chicken farmers who have suffered losses equal to or greater than those of producers who were provided assistance through the CFAP. 

Thank you for your attention to this request. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like more information or have any questions.

Sincerely,

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