USDA extends pandemic-related aid payments to liquid-egg industry

Iowa is on of the nation's top egg producers. (Photo by Iowa Egg Council)

Federal officials this week said they will provide coronavirus-related aid to producers of liquid eggs, a victory for Iowa’s congressional delegation. 

Iowa is one of the nation’s top producers of eggs, 70% of which are sold in liquid form.

Iowa’s U.S. senators and state officials had appealed to the U.S.Department of Agriculture to ensure liquid-egg producers were covered by the federal government’s assistance to farmers. The industry has been hit hard by the lagging restaurant industry as COVID-19 spread, Iowa officials noted. 

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced Tuesday that the liquid-egg producers would be eligible to apply for aid through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The $16 billion Coronavirus Food Assistance Program will take applications through until Sept. 11.

“CFAP is just one of the many ways USDA is helping producers weather the impacts of the pandemic,” Perdue said in a statement. “From deferring payments on loans to adding flexibilities to crop insurance and reporting deadlines, USDA has been leveraging many tools to help producers.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley is a Republican from New Hartford, Iowa.

On June 2, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst joined Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig in a letter to Perdue requesting the change. 

“As our producers continue doing their part to keep our national food supply chains moving, we must do our part to support their livelihood. It’s why I appreciate President Trump and his team for working with us to support Iowa’s egg producers,” Reynolds said in a statement. “By making CFAP funds available to growers devastated by this spring’s drop in liquid egg prices, the administration is making strides in delivering aid to Iowans with layer operations.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks during a news conference on Aug. 11, 2020, at Iowa PBS in Johnston. (Screen shot from Iowa PBS livestream)

Iowa has more than 58 million laying hens. The state produces about one in every six eggs consumed in the United States, USDA reports. The state’s $2.6 billion egg industry supports nearly 10,000 jobs. 

“USDA has made good on its promise to support our farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and will now include our liquid egg producers in those payments.,” Grassley said in a statement. “Market disruptions have negatively impacted almost all agriculture and farming operations in Iowa.”

Farmers have been hit by low crop prices, reduced demand during trade wars, and, this week, straight-line winds in the Midwest that toppled many corn and soybean plants.

“COVID-19 has taken its toll on farmers across the country, regardless of what they grow or raise,” Zippy Duvall, president of American Farm Bureau Federation. “No one can tell when this pandemic will end, and extending the deadline and expanding eligibility will provide a lifeline at a time it’s needed most.”

USDA recommends farmers call 877-508-8364 if they are new to Farm Service Agency applications. Documents are available online