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Minnesota company gets most aid in Iowa hog disposal program

One influential pork company has received the vast majority of payments from an Iowa program designed to support farmers who euthanized their hogs after the coronavirus devastated their industry.

Posted: Jul 31, 2020 1:12 PM

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — One influential pork company has received most of the money from an Iowa program designed to support farmers who euthanized their hogs after the coronavirus devastated their industry, newly released data shows.

Christensen Farms, one of the nation's largest family-owned pork producers, has received $1.86 million from the Iowa Disposal Assistance Program, or 72% of the $2.6 million the program has paid to date.

The Sleepy Eye, Minnesota-based company received payments for disposing of 46,599 euthanized hogs, six times as many as the second highest claimant. The 15 other companies and farmers who received payments reported euthanizing about 18,000 hogs combined.

Iowa is the nation’s largest pork-producing state, and Christensen Farms has more than half of its operations in the state, including partnerships with nearly 200 farms.

Coronavirus outbreaks at meatpacking plants resulted in worker absenteeism and temporary closures, dramatically slowing production in April and into May. As a result, some farmers said they had no markets to sell their hogs and no space to keep them. Industry officials say they took steps to find new markets and to slow animals’ growth but euthanized them as a last resort — a practice that can use gunshots, bolt guns, electrocution or heat.

Christensen Farms is the largest shareholder in the Triumph Foods plant in St. Joseph, Missouri, and part owner of the Seaboard Triumph Foods plant in Sioux City, Iowa. Between the two plants, at least 611 workers have tested positive for coronavirus and three have died.

With disruptions to the supply chain, "pork producers have been faced with making unfathomable and heartbreaking, yet critically necessary decisions to sacrifice pigs that processing plants were unable to take,” the company said in a statement.

Christensen Farms spokeswoman JoDee Haala said it used a variety of methods approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association to euthanize hogs. She said its preferred methods for disposal have been to render carcasses into fats used in products such as animal feed or using them as compost.

Christensen Farms said it was grateful for the support from the Iowa program “as the sector navigates prolonged and unprecedented uncertainty.”

The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship released the claims data Wednesday in response to an open records request by The Associated Press.

Iowa launched the program in May to reimburse farmers $40 for each euthanized market-ready hog up to 225 pounds (102 kilograms). It is paid for with federal funds provided to the state for coronavirus relief.

Participation has been lower than anticipated, agriculture department spokeswoman Keely Coppess said. It's unclear why some filed claims and others did not, she said. Only a tiny fraction of Iowa’s estimated 6,200 pig farms have sought payments.

Christensen Farms reported euthanizing all 46,599 hogs between May 1 and June 5. It received the maximum allowed claim of 30,000 hogs in the first round of funding and 16,599 in the second.

Demand for the program dropped in the next two rounds of funding, which covered the bulk of June. Producers making claims must provide proof of proper disposal and an affidavit from a veterinarian.

The department expanded eligibility this month to producers who euthanized hens after the price of liquid eggs plummeted as a result of restaurant and school closures. For the first time, this round of funding also will pay $4 per piglet of up to 25 pounds (11 kilograms) euthanized between May 1 and July 20.

The number of hogs euthanized dwarfs the number donated during the first phase of Iowa's highly touted Pass the Pork program.

The state launched the program in April to pay the cost of having pigs processed and packaged for food banks. By early June, 451 pigs had been donated, resulting in 200,000 servings of pork.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 56560

Reported Deaths: 1656
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin18009819
Ramsey6944261
Dakota3991103
Anoka3365113
Stearns283120
Washington191743
Nobles17466
Olmsted162923
Scott139014
Mower10812
Rice9998
Blue Earth8525
Wright8135
Carver7792
Clay74540
Kandiyohi6761
Sherburne6497
St. Louis43619
Todd4202
Lyon4163
Freeborn3541
Steele3301
Nicollet31213
Benton3063
Watonwan2980
Winona24716
Crow Wing21313
Martin2045
Le Sueur2011
Beltrami1930
Chisago1791
Goodhue1768
Otter Tail1763
Cottonwood1710
Becker1431
Pipestone1439
Unassigned14040
McLeod1380
Itasca13212
Polk1313
Douglas1300
Waseca1280
Pine1270
Carlton1250
Dodge1230
Murray1221
Isanti1100
Chippewa981
Brown852
Faribault830
Meeker832
Morrison831
Wabasha810
Sibley792
Koochiching743
Rock740
Pennington721
Jackson700
Mille Lacs653
Fillmore610
Renville595
Cass582
Lincoln540
Swift521
Grant491
Yellow Medicine490
Roseau460
Pope430
Houston390
Norman340
Redwood300
Kanabec291
Hubbard280
Marshall280
Wilkin283
Aitkin270
Mahnomen231
Wadena230
Big Stone220
Red Lake200
Lake180
Clearwater150
Stevens150
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle60
Kittson40
Cook20
Lake of the Woods10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 45774

Reported Deaths: 883
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk9723203
Woodbury365151
Black Hawk300362
Linn210887
Johnson193315
Dallas178935
Buena Vista178512
Scott159312
Dubuque153729
Marshall138924
Pottawattamie121723
Story110914
Wapello84932
Muscatine82648
Webster7255
Crawford7193
Sioux5952
Cerro Gordo57617
Tama53729
Warren5281
Jasper45524
Plymouth4438
Wright4431
Louisa37914
Dickinson3754
Clinton3173
Washington28710
Hamilton2411
Boone2282
Franklin2205
Bremer1877
Clarke1863
Carroll1811
Emmet1791
Clay1711
Hardin1650
Shelby1611
Marion1530
Allamakee1514
Poweshiek1468
Benton1431
Jackson1411
Des Moines1392
Mahaska13617
Floyd1292
Guthrie1265
Jones1242
Cedar1201
Hancock1172
Butler1142
Henry1133
Pocahontas1131
Buchanan1111
Lyon1020
Madison1022
Clayton983
Cherokee971
Harrison970
Lee953
Taylor930
Humboldt921
Delaware901
Monona900
Iowa891
Winneshiek851
Calhoun822
Mills820
Fayette810
Sac810
Palo Alto790
Kossuth780
Jefferson770
Osceola770
Mitchell760
Page760
Winnebago760
Grundy741
Union701
Monroe677
Worth610
Chickasaw510
Cass481
Davis481
Howard480
Lucas454
Montgomery433
Appanoose423
Greene380
Fremont350
Van Buren321
Keokuk301
Ida290
Audubon281
Decatur220
Adair210
Ringgold211
Adams160
Wayne161
Unassigned80
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