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Washington, D.C. - Today, Congressman Tom Emmer (MN-06) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (MO-04), along with Congressman Jim Hagedorn (MN-01) and Congressman Blaine Luetkemeyer (MO-03) sent a letter to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue to request the inclusion of independent turkey farmers as eligible for relief provided by the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). 

CFAP was authorized by Congress in the CARES Act and announced by the USDA on April 17, 2020. The program provided $19 billion to farmers and ranchers who have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Qualifying providers were eligible for direct payments as well as participation in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Turkey producers are currently excluded from this program. 

As with most agriculture producers, turkey growers are facing untold losses due to the decline in the foodservice industry as a result of COVID-19 and corresponding disruptions across the food supply chain. Independent turkey growers have incurred deeper losses because, like hog and cattle farmers, they own their birds. However, these turkey growers remain ineligible for CFAP funding. These independent producers represent nearly 10 percent of overall production.

"Our poultry producers are struggling much like other agricultural commodities," said Congressman Emmer. "The Coronavirus outbreak produced serious challenges for independent turkey growers, but they have been unable to access assistance to weather these challenges. The Administration has taken tremendous efforts to support our farmers during this time, and assistance is also needed for one of the top agricultural products grown out of Minnesota. Turkey growers have supported our grocery stores and kept food on our plates for months – now we owe them our support." 

"Like so many others in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, independent turkey growers have dealt with tremendous financial strain that has threatened their ability to operate. Given their importance to Missouri’s agriculture industry and America’s food supply chain, the USDA must include independent turkey growers in the list of eligible recipients of CFAP. I thank my colleagues for joining in this effort,” said Congresswoman Hartzler. 

"Independent turkey growers make tremendous contributions to our nation’s food supply, and, through no fault of their own, have faced outsized financial losses since the start of the pandemic. Therefore, it is essential that USDA include the turkey industry in any expansion of CFAP.” said Congressman Hagedorn.

"Given independent turkey producers’ critical role in Missouri’s agricultural landscape, it is only fitting that they be eligible to receive CFAP funding from USDA.  This will allow them to recover from interruptions to the food service industry and economy as a whole due to the coronavirus shutdowns while continuing to feed families around the U.S. and the world,” said Congressman Leutkemeyer.

"The challenges of COVID-19 have unfortunately resulted in losses across the turkey industry, and it is important that independent turkey farmers be eligible for assistance through USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP),” said Joel Brandenberger, president of the National Turkey Federation. “Independent turkey farmers make up more than 10 percent of the turkey industry, and many of these hardworking men and women have been forced to decrease production due to the sharp decline in foodservice business. We appreciate the leadership of Reps. Hartzler and Emmer in calling for this much-needed relief and urge USDA to act accordingly."

"Minnesota is home to the largest number of independent turkey farmers in the nation.  The impact of COVID has been felt by all in the industry, especially with the closure of schools, restaurants, and the hospitality industry.  Though we are experienced in weathering tough times, we cannot continue to pay fixed costs with no revenue coming in the door without financial assistance and that is why it is crucial turkey is included in CFAP funding.  We are one of the few commodity groups excluded at this time and it doesn’t make sense given the challenges we are facing,” said John Peterson, a member of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

"The shutdown in the restaurant industry nationwide created a buildup of turkey stocks with our processor forcing them to reduce our flock placement by a minimum of one flock in the second half of 2020. A price decline is one thing to deal with, yet complete removal of a flock not only reduces income, but piles fixed costs onto an already bleak year," expressed Brandon Kliethemes, an independent turkey grower in Missouri’s Fourth Congressional District. "This situation has rippled back through our crop operation as it supplies feed for the turkeys."

Read the letter here.

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