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Senators question slow pace of pandemic payments to farmers

The Biden administration has committed $7.3 billion in pandemic aid to farmers and ranchers since March, but payments are now much smaller.

The Biden administration has committed $7.3 billion in pandemic aid to farmers and ranchers since March, but payments are now much smaller; $583 million in the past four months, according to an unofficial tally by FERN. Four members of the Senate Agriculture Committee queried the USDA on Monday about the lack of payments to farmers who produce hogs under contract.

“We are concerned,” said the senators in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, that a June 15 announcement of assistance for poultry contract growers did not mention hog contract growers, though both groups are entitled to aid under December 2021 coronavirus legislation. The USDA said in June that it intended to implement the program within 60 days, which would be next week.

Hog farmers also are waiting for “swine top-up payments” that were announced in the closing weeks of the Trump administration and put on hold by a regulatory freeze by the incoming Biden administration, said Republican Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Democratic Sens Amy Klobucher and Tina Smith of Minnesota. Iowa is No. 1 and Minnesota is No. 2 in U.S. hog production.

A USDA spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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