State Representative Dan Swanson (74th District- Alpha) joined all members of the Illinois House Agriculture & Conservation Committee on Wednesday in a letter to Governor JB Pritzker endorsing recommendations made by the Illinois Pork Producers Association requesting a series of immediate emergency actions to address a looming public health crisis as livestock come to market weight with not nearly enough meat packing plant capacity to process the animals as the COVID-19 pandemic has ravaged the meat-packing industry’s capacity.
“This hits home as the only hog farmer in the Illinois General Assembly,” said Rep. Swanson. “There are really grim and dangerous choices being faced by our farmers right now that not only devastate their livelihoods, but also contribute to food shortage issues and a food supply crisis that many Illinoisans and many Americans have not seen in their lifetimes,” Swanson solemnly described.
Currently, at least 7 major midwestern pork processing plants have shut down due to COVID-19, representing 24% of overall capacity. Additionally, those plants that are still operating are operating at a fraction of their normal capacity due to the risks presented by COVID-19. Unfortunately, the Pork Producers project that this will quickly lead to a shortfall in capacity to process 100,000 market-ready pigs per week.
With no place to deliver their animals, farmers are now faced with grim choices, including euthanizing their herds, which the pork producers aptly describe as, “difficult and traumatic, especially in the current reality of food shortages, destroying the value of these animals and creating an environmental struggle as we seek to dispose of the carcasses in a manner that protects the environment.”
In total, IPPA estimates potentially millions of 300-pound animals being put down. With no financial assistance from the federal government to pork producers to date, many farmers also lack the resources to properly dispose of the carcasses without federal assistance from FEMA.
Rep. Dan Swanson & Agriculture Committee Minority Spokesperson Charlie Meier will be hosting a Facebook Live Town Hall event on Thursday, May 7 at 4:30pm regarding Food Supply issues via their Facebook pages. Video will be available after 5:30pm to watch their presentation any time.
The recommendations of the Illinois Pork Producers Association can be found at: repswanson.com/pritzkerletter4-30-20-2/.
The letter endorsing their recommendations by both Democrats and Republicans serving on the House Agriculture & Conservation Committee can be found at: repswanson.com/house-ag-letter-5-5/.