Farmers responsible for raising 700,000 chickens were left in limbo last week when the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville stopped production. It means those farmers are feeding tens of thousands of chickens that had been due for slaughter — and that feed costs thousands of dollars.
Assistant State Attorney General Steve Moline says the A.G.’s office and the state ag department have been working together to try to solve this dilemma. "First of all, the birds will be fed," Moline says. "There’s been a firm agreement that they will be fed and we’ve confirmed this with the local feed suppliers, that there’s enough money there to feed the chickens through the Thanksgiving season."
The money for the feed is coming from the First Bank of St. Louis which claims Agriprocessors owes them at least $35 million. Moline says there appears to be enough money in the pipeline to feed the chickens ’til Monday. "There’s a group (of chickens) in eastern Iowa pretty adjacent to the Postville plant and then there’s a group in western Iowa, about a similar amount, that are also owed by Agriprocessors and being raised by local producers on behalf of Agriprocessors," Moline says, "so our office’s involvement really has been helping the Iowa Department of Agriculture to work with local officials to make sure that financing got in place and so far we’ve been able to do that."
Agriprocessors filed for bankruptcy on November 4 and shortly afterwards stopped slaughtering beef cattle. It kept slaughtering chickens for a few more weeks. Cattle producers in northeast Iowa who had planned to sell their livestock to Agriprocessors have had to truck their animals to one of the few sale barns left in Iowa, or truck them all the way to western Iowa to the closest meatpacking plant accepting cattle.