CENTRAL ILLINOIS, Ill. (WMBD) — Push has come to shove for pork producers in Illinois. Farms everywhere are now scrambling to get rid of their hogs anyway they can. Industry leaders say meat packing plant production is at an all time low causing a backlog of pigs with nowhere for them to go.
What pig farmers feared, COVID-19 slowing down processing plants, has now become a reality. Farmers say in the end they can’t send the animals to market, leaving farms full, with little to no options.
“We’re actually going out of business, at least temporarily,” said McLean County Hog Farmer, Patrick Bane. “We are emptying our farm, so we are no longer producing baby pigs for some period of time.”
It’s what hog farmers like Bane never expected, the shockwaves of COVID-19 started to hit meat packing plants. Many workers have gotten sick, some plants have even closed down, and the industry, indefinitely paused, forcing producers to make tough choices.
“It’s a sad scenario,” said Bane. “There is some euthenisation going on in the industry. The honest and blunt truth is there is a lot of food going to waste.”
Jenny Jackson, Director of Communications for the Illinois Pork Producers Association says pigs become market ready at 300-pounds. At that time they’re supposed to be on their way to packaging plants. But with slowed production farmers are left trying to buy time anyway they can as hits from the healthcare crisis just keep coming.
“We are facing unprecedented times,” said Jackson. “Some of the older generation of farmers we represent has never been through a time like this, even those that went through the hardest of ag depression ages.”
However, federal help could be on the way to the tune of $20 million. That is, if the so-called “Heroes Act” makes it through the senate. It should be noted, both Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump have already pledged to strike it down.
Representative Cheri Bustos (D) Illinois, one of the brains behind the bill says, the Act will bring much needed funds to farmers though she questions if it will be enough.
“I don’t think it is going to be enough,” said Bustos. “We fought for a lot more than that, but I think this is a way to be of some help.”
If the act passes, livestock producers could get up to $250,000 if they apply in a timely manor, but at an average of $70 per pig and thousands of pigs per farm, Bane says the amount is not even close.
“It might bridge the gap, to keep some people in business,” he said. “Is it going to fix anyone’s issue? the answer is absolutely not.”
The Illinois Pork Producers Association has a campaign where they will pay the processing fee if farmers donate hogs to their local food bank. The food is then given to community members who are in need.
For more information on how you can donate to that effort, visit their website.