Senator Tom Harkin is asking the U.S.D.A. to help livestock producers and sale barn owners in Iowa who haven’t been paid by Agriprocessors, the Postville meatpacking plant that was the focus of an immigration raid in May.

Harkin, who is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, sent a letter to U.S. Ag Secretary Ed Schafer. Harkin essentially argues federal law requires meatpackers like Agriprocessors to fully pay livestock owners first when going through bankruptcy.

Harkin says it’s clear that since mid-October, at the least, Agriprocessors was not fully paying livestock and poultry sellers, yet the company was allowed to continue buying livestock. Harkin’s letter also says individual livestock producers and sale barn owners don’t have the financial resources to go into bankruptcy court and demand payment — so Harkin’s asking the ag secretary to intervene and direct U.S.D.A. lawyers to file documents in the bankruptcy court on behalf of livestock producers.

According to Harkin, Agriprocessors has not paid for "several million dollars worth" of livestock and poultry.