Senators want coronavirus money for hog farmers forced to 'depopulate' herds

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A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and congressional leaders asking them to "prioritize funding" for pork producers being forced to depopulate herds because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The crisis is immediate," the senators wrote. "Pork producers send to market over two million pigs each week. If twenty percent of processing is idle, that means somewhere around 400,000 animals per week must be disposed of in some manner other than processing."

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COVID-19 has infected workers at 115 meat and poultry processing facilities in 19 states, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Resulting closures have created a processing bottleneck.

Workers line up to enter the Tyson Foods pork processing plant in Logansport, Ind., Thursday, May 7, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

The hog industry will lose more than $5 billion due to restaurant closures, the senators wrote. They asked for authorization for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help with the "humane euthanization and disposal" of hogs.

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The letter's signatories include Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Dick Durbin of Illinois, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Gary Peters of Michigan, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Todd Young of Indiana, Ron Wyden of Oregon, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.

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