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Arkansas Poultry Growers and Other Farms Have Been Promised Pandemic Help

The United States Department of Agriculture announced  that it will pay nearly $6 billion in additional aid to farmers, ranchers, and others who work in agriculture.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the Pandemic Assistance Program has $6 billion in funds available to assist a variety of new programs or to alter existing operations. The funds will be distributed over the following 60 days, he said, in order to fill up the gaps left by the previous round of assistance, which was directed at small and medium-sized farmers that needed the most help. Payments from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) will help producers and enterprises that have been left behind.

In a news release, Vilsack stated, "USDA is following its pledge to get financial support to growers and essential agricultural businesses, especially those left out or underserved by earlier COVID aid." “These USDA Pandemic Assistance initiatives will assist our food, agriculture, and forestry industries in getting back on track and planning for the future.”

Some of the funding were directed to the agribusiness industries listed below. • $200 million: Small, family-owned timber harvesting and hauling businesses • $700 million: Biofuels producers • Support for dairy farmers and processors to include $400 million for a new Dairy Donation Program to address food insecurity and mitigate food waste and loss, additional pandemic payments targeted to dairy farmers who have demonstrated losses that have not been covered by previous pandemic assistance, and approximately $580 million for supplemental Dairy Margin Coverage for small and medium farms. • Assistance for poultry and livestock producers left out of previous rounds of pandemic assistance to include contract growers of poultry and livestock and poultry producers forced to euthanize animals during the pandemic (March 1, 2020 through Dec. 26, 2020). • $700 million: Pandemic Response and Safety Grants for PPE and other protective measures to help specialty crop growers, meat packers and processors, seafood industry workers, among others • Up to $20 million: Additional organic cost share assistance, including for producers who are transitioning to organic

“We have more work to do with our farming and ranching families every opportunity to earn a good living,” Vilsack said. “As the economy improves, USDA will ensure that American agriculture is ready to capitalize on the opportunity.”

For contract poultry farms who have been directly touched by the pandemic and slower production runs at chicken processing factories, the release was light on details. Tyson Foods, based in Springdale, said its operations were working at about 80% capacity due to worker absence. According to Mark Lambert, an agri-economist with the Arkansas Farm Bureau, this has resulted in lengthier layout times between flocks for many growers.

According to the Arkansas Farm Bureau, the state of Arkansas contains around 2,400 broiler farms. A booming turkey business in the state employs 4,154 people and supports 7,857 additional jobs through contract farmers and farm services for Cargill and Butterball.

The House Chicken Caucus in Washington is co-chaired by U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Rogers. The group recently petitioned Vilsack to intervene on behalf of contract growers and agriculture producers who were not included in the stimulus package. The caucus led a bipartisan effort to expedite the request for more direct payments on behalf of contract growers.

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