Louisiana Senator discusses challenges facing poultry


The USDA recently announced plans to buy $30 million dollars worth of chicken products from farmers due to market disruptions brought on by COVID-19 but some U.S. Senators are asking for more support for poultry processors.

A letter signed by 17 U.S. Senators was sent to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue asking for the department’s support for America’s poultry producers. The letter described how many chickens farmers have had to depopulate millions of health birds because of the reduction in processing capacity.

Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is one of those Senators that signed the letter. He says that not only is the poultry industry impacted by the pandemic, but they are also facing a labor issue.

“We’re not getting pork; we’re not getting beef. We can’t run out of chicken...So, I gave some suggestions that could help with their manpower shortage, as well as, working with my staff to figure out exactly what’s going on. Just as President Trump asked beef and pork to remain online, we need poultry producers to do as well...The issues are more than one. You can’t get workers. Workers are paid more not to work under the current unemployment plan than they would to work. So, the people power required to process is not there so we have to address that,” he said.

In a statement, the USDA said that the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program is designed to provide help to farmers, that have experienced at least a 5 percent loss due to COVID-19. The USDA says those topline numbers may not account for all the possible losses and they will continue to evaluate the impacts and work with Congress as more resources are needed, but its goal is to be inclusive and not leave out any sector of agriculture.

According to the National Chicken Council, one reason poultry producers did not see any benefit for the first CFAP payments is because they actually saw an uptick in sales when the pandemic first started. Therefore, the did not meet the loss requirements.

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