As the supply chain that moves America’s most-purchased protein, chicken, continues to be hampered by the COVID-19 outbreak, Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc. is urging Congress to provide family farmers raising chicken with direct financial assistance that has not been included for them in earlier agricultural relief bills.
“Challenges faced by chicken processing facilities impact the entire supply chain, including the family farmers in our states who raise chickens. This is beginning to have serious effects on bird placements to family farms,” said a letter to Congress jointly signed by DPI and 11 other state poultry associations.
U.S. Department of Agriculture reports showed a 6 percent decline in broiler-type chicks hatched between April 2019 and April 2020, and a matching 6 percent decline in eggs placed in hatchery incubators. That decline will lead to fewer chickens and fewer flocks for the nation’s chicken growers, including the family farmers who are crucial to Delmarva’s $3.5 billion chicken economy.
“These farmers are faced with overhead costs, and any downtime will bring great financial pressure upon them,” the letter continued. “As these farmers cope with raising fewer chickens among changing and uncertain demand, we believe it is essential that they be provided with direct financial assistance, just as other farmers and livestock producers have been supported during the pandemic.”
The $16 billion in aid to farmers under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program has not provided any benefit to chicken growers, since only livestock farmers raising cattle, lambs, yearlings and hogs are eligible. The program also provides aid to farmers producing field crops, milk, and specialty crops – but not chicken.
The letter also thanked Sens. Chris Coons and Roger Wicker, leaders of the Senate Chicken Caucus, for their leadership in assisting farmers.