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Iowa Officials Call On USDA To Help Turkey Farmers

Amy Mayer
IPR file
Turkey farms were not included in pandemic relief funding programs.

Several Iowa leaders are asking the federal government to add turkey farms to the types of agricultural businesses that get relief from coronavirus-related losses. The industry was not mentioned in the CARES Act nor in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s payment program for farm businesses.

“There was no money made available for turkeys,” says Ron Kardel, a turkey farmer in Walcott and chair of the National Turkey Federation.

“I don’t think anything deliberate was done,” he adds, “it’s just that there’s a lot more cattle, dairy, hog people. I think it was just a fact of inadvertent omission.”

Gov. Kim Reynolds, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig, Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley sent a letter this week spelling out how the government could compensate turkey farmers for losses that they may still incur through the summer.

“The ask is to get some provisions that would provide money to cover the fixed cost,” Kardel says, such as insurance, taxes and loan payments that continue even when a barn is empty, “so when it does come back everybody is healthy and whole and ready to rock and roll again.”

Kardel says with food service shut down for most of the spring, turkey breast meat is filling freezers and some producers didn’t refill their barns because they feared they would have no market for their birds when they reached sale weight.

Sen. Chuck Grassley says the pandemic relief program set aside money for USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. He says there should still be some money there that can now be used to help turkey, egg and other poultry farms.

“I hope that poultry and turkeys will be taken care of from the money that’s leftover yet,” Grassley says. He has previously advocated for compensating egg operations.

Iowa is a top producer of eggs and a top 10 producer of turkeys.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames