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5,000 hogs have been euthanized in Iowa so far because of meatpacking closures

Packing plants have had to close or dramatically reduce production capacity in order to protect workers from contracting COVID-19
Hogs Inside an Iowa Swine Finishing Barn

Right now, the USDA is assisting producers with the disposal of animals that are not being slaughtered due to the temporary closure of meat processing plants. In Iowa, the leading pork producing state in America, farmers have had to euthanize 5,000 hogs as of May 7. The federal Natural Resources Conservation Services (NRCS) estimates there will be 500,000 to 600,000 hogs disposed of over the next six weeks.

According to the Associated Press at the end of 2019, Iowa has about 24 million pigs on farms. Farms have just over 1 million breeding pigs and 23.9 million market hogs, or those raised for meat. 

Several members of Iowa's federal and state delegation, including Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, have been pushing for more financial assistance to pork producers in Iowa. 

"The waste of viable pigs at a time of great need is causing both deep economic loss and emotional anguish across the nation’s pork industry," said Michael Corkery and David Yaffee in an op-ed in The New York Times earlier this week. "The number of pigs being slaughtered but not used for food is staggering. In Iowa, the nation’s largest pork-producing state, agricultural officials expect the backlog to reach 600,000 hogs over the next six weeks. In Minnesota, an estimated 90,000 pigs have been killed on farms since the meat plants began closing last month."

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Last month, Grassley and others asked President Trump to provide funding to mental health resources for these hog farmers, as well as money to compensate them for the pigs they had to kill and not turned into meat.

In the past month, the Trump Administration has listened to the concerns of the Midwestern leaders, including putting forth an Executive Order to require meatpacking plants to remain open. In Iowa, the Department of Agriculture set up "Pass the Pork," a program aimed at connecting pork producers with local meat lockers and food pantries to provide meat to the needy. 

Still, some producers Local 5 has spoken to said they must get creative in finding ways to slow down the growth of their pigs during the pandemic because packing plants aren't processing as many hogs. In Ogden, one family farm is selling off live pigs this weekend to anyone who wants one. 

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Earlier this month, the USDA announced it would be buying $470 million worth of food commodities from Iowa in the third quarter and the food would be distributed to food banks and other organizations nationwide.

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