Iowa Farmers Faced With Gut Wrenching Choices
As if Iowa farmers aren't facing enough hardships. When restaurants closed down across the nation, demand for their products took a huge hit. Now, the meatpacking industry has been hit hard by COVID-19, shutting down plants around the nation. That has Iowa farmers facing gruesome decisions about what to do with livestock that can't be moved.
According to Reuters, the world's biggest meat companies have halted operations at 20 processing plants in North America during the month of April. That has many worried about a global meat shortage. Of course, you wouldn't know that by looking at the historically low commodity prices farmers continue to face. Now farmers are running out of space to store their livestock and have to make the difficult decision to cull the herd. John Tyson, the chairman of Tyson Foods, tells Reuters that millions of pigs, chickens, and cattle will be killed because of the slaughterhouse closures and limiting supplies at grocers.
The pork industry has been hit especially hard, with daily production cut by one third. With cattle, you can release them out and feed them on pasture. But hogs are fattened up in large buildings, and if they get too big can hurt themselves. Plus, those barns need to be emptied before the new batch of piglets arrives from sows that were impregnated before the pandemic. Reuters reports that some farmers in Iowa are euthanizing 5% of their newborn pigs until the situation corrects itself. Some are also killing sows to reduce their numbers. All of the animals will be turned into compost.
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds sent a letter to the Trump administration pleading for financial help and assistance in culling animals and disposing of their carcasses. Some farmers are getting death threats because of them having to kill portions of their herd. A farmer told Reuters, "They say 'how dare you throw away food when so many people are hungry?' They don't know how farming works. This makes me sick, too."