Pay hog farmers indemnities for culling herds, say senators

The next coronavirus relief bill should include indemnity money for hog farmers who killed their animals because slaughter plants were shut down due to the coronavirus, said 14 senators in a letter to House and Senate leaders on Monday. The letter did not suggest how much the indemnities would cost.

Up to 400,000 hogs a week “must be disposed in some manner other than processing,” if slaughter plants are operating at 80 percent capacity, wrote the senators. About 2 million hogs were going to slaughter each week before the pandemic. The USDA estimated hog slaughter at 357,000 head on Monday, 82 percent of slaughter levels a year ago, but up by 82,000 head from the previous Monday.

“The crisis is immediate,” said the senators, mostly from the Midwest. “We must prioritize funding to indemnify producers who are depopulating herds due to processing plant closures. Assistance is needed for humane euthanization and disposal which will require the coordination of the human, animal, and environmental health communities.”

Separately, the National Pork Producers Council asked Congress for $1.2 billion to compensate farmers through a USDA livestock assistance program for culled hogs and $500 million to USDA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist in the expenses for killing and disposing of hogs. The Hagstrom Report was the first to report the undated, two-page fact sheet.