Sen. Chuck Grassley

As so many large pork production plants are closed by the pandemic, Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says he’s growing more concerned for the state’s hog farmers who have nowhere to take their animals.

Grassley says euthanasia of hogs may be the last resort as 40% of our pork production is shut down this week. “Not only are we down because people are actually sick and shouldn’t be at work, but there’s others who are afraid to come to work,” Grassley says. “Hopefully, guidance from CDC and OSHA will build confidence so people will show up for work and we can get the plants up and running.”

Grassley, Senator Joni Ernst and Iowa Ag Secretary Mike Naig have sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence — who’s in charge of the federal government’s coronavirus response — asking for help in four key areas to keep pork production viable in Iowa.
Grassley says, “Additional protection for employee safety at plants to keep them open, resources for humane euthanasia of hogs — if that’s necessary, indemnity payments for producers who are forced to depopulate pigs.”

The fourth area is mental health assistance for producers who must euthanize animals, as well as for “veterinarians and others involved in the difficult decisions and processes around euthanizing and disposing of animals.” Grassley could not estimate how much of Iowa’s pork may go to waste if producers can’t get their livestock to market, but he says the figures will be extremely high.

He’s hoping producers can salvage at least some of their animals. “Save what hogs you can for food banks and for people that can’t get food,” Grassley says. “Governor Reynolds has put out a program with the Pork Producers to move hogs to local locker plants so they can be slaughtered. The pigs will be given away.”

Grassley says each of the pork plants that have closed had been slaughtering at least 10,000 head of hogs per day, so there are tremendous numbers of pigs that aren’t being moved. He says some grocery stores are already running short of pork products — from lunchmeat to ham to bacon — and shortages loom. Grassley says there’s perhaps a two-week supply of pork in storage.

“What I’m concerned about is,” Grassley says, “there’s an old saying, and I don’t think we’ve ever seen it play out in the United States, but we have seen it play out in other places around the world, that you’re only nine meals away from rioting, and we don’t want that to happen in the United States.”