WASHINGTON Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today joined his colleagues in the Iowa Congressional delegation urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack to expand eligibility of the department’s COVID-19 relief programs to include custom cattle feeders, a sector of Iowa’s agricultural economy operated primarily by family farmers.
 
Grassley along with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Reps. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Randy Feenstra (R-Iowa), Ashley Hinson (R-Iowa) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) highlighted the exclusion of custom cattle feeders from the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
 
“While we appreciate USDA’s commitment to assisting much of the beef cattle industry, it’s been brought to our attention that USDA did not include assistance for custom cattle feeders. Custom feeding is an important part of Iowa's cattle industry,” the members wrote. “In Iowa, nearly all custom feedyards are owned and operated by farm families. Many of these custom cattle feeders have been unable to conduct business as usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with yards sitting empty or at low capacity….To assist custom cattle feeders during this difficult time, we request that USDA include custom cattle feeders as part of any upcoming assistance plans.”
 
The members also emphasized the ability for custom cattle feeders, which have faced similar business difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to meet the same loss requirements that swine and poultry growers had to meet in previous rounds of CFAP.
 
On January 27, USDA froze additional CFAP payments to conduct a customary review of the program, including its payments and eligibility.
 
Last year, the two rounds of CFAP assistance provided over $2.1 billion in assistance to Iowas farmers, growers and producers. USDA approved over 113,000 applications from Iowa for CFAP aid.
 
"The Iowa Cattlemen's Association is pleased to have a united show of support from our delegation on this important issue," Matt Deppe, CEO of the Iowa Cattlemen's Association, said. "One of our top priorities, beginning in 2020 and extending on into the new year, has been working to ensure cattle producers receive adequate assistance to recover from the market disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While the USDA and Congress have made efforts to support all sectors agriculture, it's important to recognize that custom cattle feeders have been left out in the cold. We appreciate the unwavering dedication of Iowa's congressional leaders on this front, and look forward to working with the newly-confirmed Sec. Vilsack to develop solutions that address the challenges our producers face.”
 

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.