Iowa plays a critical role in re-opening America as we confront the COVID-19 pandemic. With Governor Reynold’s action to re-open statewide on 15 May, coupled with expansive screening, testing, and health protections to high-risk individuals, our State is becoming a model for the nation. Elected leaders have moved decisively to help communities facing the health crisis, while stemming potentially lasting economic damages.
Fortunately, Iowa’s taxpayers are well served by a State Legislature that wisely invested annual revenues into a billion dollar “rainy day fund.” These dollars are marked to help ensure a speedy recovery for Iowans in the wake of disaster. This responsible budgeting gives our state the resources necessary to help re-open Iowa and the nation.
Restarting the Economy begins with Restarting the Supply Chain
A prime example of Iowa’s leading role comes from our farmers. Iowa is ground zero for feeding the nation and is the start for a supply chain that nearly every industry depends upon.
Is speaking with farmers in Polk and Jasper counties, the impact COVID-19 is unlike anything they have experienced in a lifetime. The virus spread makes planning for food production, health care, and business a challenge everywhere.
In working with small and medium hog farmers, they made clear that Iowa pork producers raise one-third of the pigs in the United States, but that they cannot recreate supply overnight. It takes approximately 10 months from conception for a pig to be ready to go to market. While farmers are strategic planners, no one knew 10 months ago that today would look like this. This has disrupted the food supply chain and has led to difficult decisions on the farm.
According to the Iowa Pork Producers, before the impact of COVID-19, an average workday in Iowa would see 150,000 pigs delivered to pork processing plants in the state. The key engines for those plants are their employees. As employees contracted the virus, their absences significantly reduced processing capacity and led to some temporary plant closures. The result: an ever-growing bottleneck of pigs at the farm.
With pork processing down by nearly 40 percent, Iowa’s pork producers are in an unprecedented situation where farmers cannot get pigs processed so pork cannot get to grocery stores and to the end customer, us.
Iowa’s pig farmers have explored every effort to find innovative solutions to process pork, including bulk donation to feed local communities. Despite these efforts to keep pork in the food supply chain, holdups from the overall disruption in the chain continue to grow.
America Needs Farmers
In order for the nation to re-start, Iowa must be in a position to help our agricultural growers and livestock producers through this difficult time. As we reconvene the Legislature, this must be one of our top priorities. The success of family farmers, the resilience of our local and rural communities, will be the engine that re-opens Iowa, and re-starts America’s economy — even as we face these unprecedented challenges.
As ever, it is an honor to serve you. Please let me know how the pandemic is impacting your life and recommendations on how we can best defeat it by working together.