Pig farmers from around the United States have built a pork production system that is the finest in the world. I am proud to be one of these farmers; together, we raise the safest, highest quality and most affordable pork in the world.
Sadly, the coronavirus pandemic has placed in jeopardy a farming lifestyle that has served my family, rural communities and consumers so well. There is hope to reduce the damage inflicted on the pig sector by COVID-19, but we need the U.S. Senate to act now.
I’m proud to be a Minnesota pig farmer – working alongside my wife, son, and his wife on our farm, caring for our livestock and land is my life’s work. I started our farm in 1981; we raise pigs, cattle, and crops. As a farmer, I am familiar with weathering storms, from drought to market volatility. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the worst conditions I have experienced in my lifetime. Our farm has experienced extreme market volatility and, in some cases due to harvest plant disruptions, no market for our pigs at all. Like many, we’ve had to adapt, but if we don’t receive support from the federal government soon, multi-generational family farms across Minnesota will go out of business.
COVID-related pork processing plant disruptions have created a bottleneck in the pork supply chain. While plant capacity is improving, nobody knows when we’ll be back to full capacity. Pigs that can be harvested into the food supply are being sold at severe market losses, and collectively, pig farmers stand to lose more than $5 billion this year. Millions of pigs can’t be harvested and will need to be euthanized in order to prevent animal suffering, prevent worker safety issues; and because the harvest plants cannot accommodate oversized pigs. This is heartbreaking for farmers who raise animals with care for the food supply.
U.S. pig farmers remain committed to the responsibility we hold for keeping Americans supplied with a key source of nutritious protein. I’m proud of the jobs and economic activity pig farmers bring to our rural communities. While the government has made some support available, it is not enough. Without further help from the federal government, thousands of pig farmers may be forced to liquidate their farms, creating a more contracted, consolidated and less competitive pork system. That won’t serve the rural economy or consumers well.
The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. The HEROES Act includes livestock agriculture provisions addressing the dire situation faced by pig farmers like me. These provisions offer meaningful relief and include:
Compensation for euthanized livestock that can’t be processed into the food supply due to COVID-related packing plant capacity reductions.
Expanded direct payments to livestock farmers who have suffered severe losses as COVID-related market disruptions have caused the value of their livestock to plummet.
Increased funding for animal health surveillance and laboratories, which have been tapped to perform COVID-19 testing during this human health emergency.
Mental health assistance for our farmers who face a financial and emotional crisis.
I urge Sens. Klobuchar and Smith to support these provisions, adopt them into companion legislation and work with the House to present final legislation for the president’s signature. Pig farmers in Minnesota urgently need this lifeline to sustain us through an unprecedented crisis and to stabilize a farm sector teetering on long-term disaster. Without immediate action, many generational family farms will be lost forever.
Dave Mensink is a Preston area farmer.