GEORGETOWN, Del. — Nineteen U.S. senators have written a letter to senate leaders asking that future legislation helping the country recover from the economic damage of COVID-19 include direct federal aid to chicken growers who have lost at least 5 percent of expected revenue during the pandemic.
All six senators from Delmarva — Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, co-chair of the Senate’s Chicken Caucus; Sen. Tom Carper of Delaware; Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland; Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia; and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia — signed the letter, along with senators from nine other states.
The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, passed by Congress and enacted earlier this year provided direct aid to many farmers, but chicken growers were not eligible for it.
“As a result of reductions in chicken processing capacity, chicken farmers across the country have experienced longer waiting periods between flocks,” the senators wrote, and “received fewer birds to raise. As a result of these circumstances, chicken farmers have suffered substantial losses in revenues and continue to face changing and uncertain demand… For many chicken farmers, these losses represent a loss of revenues that meets or exceeds 5 percent” — a threshold amount of loss that allowed other types of farmers to receive CFAP aid.
The letter continued: “As additional COVID-19 stimulus legislation is considered by Congress, we strongly request that any future bill provide direct payments for chicken farmers who experienced a five percent or greater loss in revenues as a result of COVID-19. We believe that the inclusion of such a provision would provide parity for chicken farmers who have suffered losses equal to or greater than those of producers who were provided assistance through the CFAP.”
Delmarva’s $3.5 billion chicken economy includes more than 1,320 family farmers raising chicken, and the five chicken processing companies on Delmarva employ more than 20,300 people. The chicken industry also supports grain farmers through the purchase of $1 billion in feed ingredients, including 89 million bushels of corn, 38 million bushels of soybeans and 427,000 bushels of wheat annually, notes Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc.
“We are heartened that so many Senators clearly see the need to ensure America’s family farmers who raise chicken aren’t set back, and their farms put at risk of failing, during this pandemic,” said Holly Porter, DPI’s executive director. “We greatly appreciate the unanimous support from Delmarva’s senators. DPI will continue working with our Congressional representatives as they look to craft and pass an aid bill that recognizes the strain chicken growers are under.”