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Iowa Governor Petitions USDA to allow COVID-19 aid to Liquid Egg Producers

Six brown eggs in an egg carton.

Eggs background. Closeup view of eggs in carton box on wooden table. Food and health concept.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, as well as Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), and Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig sent a letter to federal Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue asking for egg producers to be included in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) and be eligible for financial assistance. Iowa has over 58 million egg-laying hens and produces about 1/6th of the eggs consumed in the United States according to the letter.

“COVID-19 has impacted our Iowa farmers, including our egg producers, whose eggs were destined for the liquid egg market. Because of the massive damage done to this industry as restaurants, schools, and other egg-buying businesses have closed over the past few months, we write today in support of their inclusion into the CFAP to keep these producers afloat until the pandemic abates,” the letter said.

The politicians say 70 percent of Iowa’s layer flocks are used for the liquid egg market, supplying eggs to restaurants and schools. The FDA and USDA already helped provide the means to move some eggs from the liquid market to the shell egg market, but the letter says this only helped some of the farmers as hens are required to be less than 45 weeks and certain equipment is needed for packaging.

CFAP allows aid to producers that have suffered a price decrease greater than 5 percent from the COVID-19 pandemic. Liquid egg prices decreased 68 percent between January and April. Conversely, shell eggs saw an increase of 56 percent.

“Markets for egg products, especially liquid eggs, are likely to be affected for some time by the decline in food service demand and restaurant traffic is unlikely to return immediately to normal levels. Even as more states are able to safely reopen, social distancing measures will continue to limit the number of customers that are able to consume these products,” the Governor says in the letter.

Sen. Ernst sent a letter to Secretary Perdue in early May asking for similar aid.  “Iowa is home to over 55 million egg laying hens. Most of Iowa’s egg production goes toward supporting our nation’s commercial food service. With restaurants and other commercial facilities closed down or limiting operations, our egg industry has seen a drastic drop in demand and as a result some have had to dump product,” Ernst said in the letter. “Our egg producers need help.”

The Senator said producers have made changes to stay afloat including putting portions of flocks into molt to slow production or culling their flocks. Gov. Reynolds says as producers have done their part to continue the food supply chain, and they have a responsibility to support their operations. 

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