CORONAVIRUS

Iowa egg producers who euthanized hens can get disposal aid

Program helps farmers affected by coronavirus supply chain disruptions

Hy-Line Brown chickens are shown in May 2016 at a Farmers Hen House cage-free chicken facility in rural Kalona. (The Gaz
Hy-Line Brown chickens are shown in May 2016 at a Farmers Hen House cage-free chicken facility in rural Kalona. (The Gazette)

DES MOINES — Iowa producers who euthanized hens as a result of plummeting demand for eggs caused by coronavirus shutdowns will be eligible for government payments to cover disposal costs, a state agency announced Monday.

The Iowa Disposal Assistance Program has been paying pork producers $40 for each market-ready hog they euthanized as a result of supply chain disruptions.

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship said Monday that the program would be extended for another round of funding and expanded to include costs related to euthanized piglets and egg-laying hens.

The department said 70 percent of Iowa egg-laying hen flocks are tied to the liquid egg market, which serves restaurants and schools. Demand for products dropped as a result of business and government closures that began in March.

The price of liquid eggs dropped by 68 percent, the department said, and producers responded by reducing the size of their flocks.

Iowa has some 58 million egg-laying hens and is the nation’s top state for egg production and processing, according to the Iowa Poultry Association.

Egg producers will be eligible for 25 cents for each hen that they euthanized between April 1 and July 20. They must provide proof of disposal and other documentation, including an affidavit from a veterinarian, when they apply between Aug. 6 and Aug. 14.

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“Iowa is the largest producer of pork and egg products and our farmers have been unduly affected by supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig said in a statement. “The disposal assistance program is just one way the state is trying to help producers through this very difficult time.”

Across Iowa, farmers killed tens of thousands of hogs as processing plants slowed production in April and May due to coronavirus outbreaks that infected thousands of workers. Some producers said they did not have markets for their animals or the space to keep housing them.

Under the extension announced Monday, pork producers will be eligible for $40 payments for each market-ready hog of 225 pounds or greater disposed of between June 23 and July 20. In addition, they can claim up to $4 for every piglet of up to 25 pounds that they euthanized between May 1 and July 20.

So far, 16 hog producers have filed claims for the disposal of 64,641 hogs and been paid nearly $2.6 million, department communications director Keely Coppess said. The program is funded by money from a federal law that provided coronavirus aid to states.

The demand for the program has been much lower than expected, in part because processing plants were able to resume production quickly, Coppess said. Initially, 18 producers had told the department that they anticipated euthanizing 107,000 hogs, she said.

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All donations are tax-deductible.