WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) celebrated the start of the distribution of approximately $6.75 million in direct payments for Delaware chicken growers announced last week who suffered losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, COVID-19 hurt hundreds of chicken growers across the state after processing facilities were forced to drastically reduce or suspend production. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Coronavirus Food Assistance Program was established to provide assistance for affected farmers, but the program initially excluded contract producers – barring the overwhelming majority of chicken growers from receiving aid. Senator Coons led a bipartisan effort to include assistance for contract chicken growers in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed into law last year. Since securing funding for chicken growers, Senator Coons has worked with USDA and Delaware stakeholders to ensure that payments would be calculated fairly and provided to as many eligible growers as possible. 

Following USDA’s announcement on Thursday that roughly $270 million in pandemic assistance will be provided for poultry and livestock contract producers nationwide, a total of about $6.75 million will be distributed among 185 Delaware chicken growers. The payments account for contract producers who increased the size of their operation in 2020 or were new to farming when the pandemic began. Additional chicken growers were made eligible for assistance after USDA allowed for 2018 and 2019 revenue to be considered.

“I want to thank Delaware’s agriculture leaders and USDA’s Farm Service Agency staff, who worked tirelessly to ensure that this program provided flexibility for chicken growers in Delaware and across the country,” said Senator Chris Coons. “I was proud to lead the effort to secure federal funding for these payments and thrilled that they are now being distributed to Delaware chicken growers who were hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

“There were a lot of factors due to the COVID-19 pandemic that created significant reductions in grower pay and hardships for Delaware family farms. Through a bipartisan effort, with the help of Senator Coons and the Chicken Caucus working with USDA, poultry producers across the country finally can offset some of the money they lost due to COVID,” said Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse. “The ability for contract growers to receive payments through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is important not only for Delaware but all of Delmarva to help rebuild our economy.”

"We are incredibly grateful to know that legislators, like our own Senator Chris Coons, have made it possible for Delaware producers to be among those set to receive this additional funding. Many of our farmers and ranchers were faced with insurmountable complications set in motion during the COVID pandemic. But we can rest easier knowing this funding will support their efforts at conquering these uncertain times," said Richard Wilkins, President of the Delaware Farm Bureau.

“The Delmarva Chicken Association thanks Senator Coons for all of his hard work in making sure that our contract chicken growers in Delaware and throughout the Delmarva received some aid to help with the loss of income that many faced in 2020,” said Holly Porter, Executive Director of the Delmarva Chicken Association. “These farm families are so important in making sure the United States continues to have a safe and abundant food supply.”