Billions of federal dollars up for grabs as farmers battle pandemic fallout

Published: May. 26, 2020 at 4:07 PM CDT
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Billions of dollars in federal relief went up for grabs Tuesday to help farmers recoup some of their losses amid the pandemic.

“You hate to ask for the money,” said Kellin Chambers, who’s family been farming in Treynor, Iowa for generations. “I think of us as cattle farmers we kind of pride ourselves on not having a lot of government assistance, and a lot of insurance, and bailouts.”

But the pandemic is proving to pack a hard punch. In March and April the price of cattle plummeted as meatpacking plants closed and the restaurant industry slowed. Now the federal government is trying to help farmers recover from some of that loss.

The federal government is making

impacted by the pandemic; the money comes from the coronavirus food assistance program.

“Those of us who sold cattle, or had cattle in feed at that time are supposed to receive a direct payment of so many dollars per head to cover that gap,” said Kellin.

Kellin’s father, Roger Chamber’s says they aren’t wasting any time applying for assistance. His wife runs the office and is already on it.

“She started the paperwork through the website and hopefully we can get our information submitted today, and get it taken care of," Roger said.

There’s no way of knowing how quickly the payments will move, but the Chamber’s are hoping it’s within the next few weeks.

“It will help us keep our bills paid,” said Roger. “There’s just been such equity erosion in the industry, that any cash that can help keep us going, will help.”

In the meantime they continue taking a hit. Meatpacking plants still aren’t fully running, meaning farmers have to hold onto animals longer.

“The costs continue adding up,” said Roger. “We need to feed them. They are taking them but it’s taking longer to get them killed, that’s the problem.”

It’s an industry still very much crippled by COVID-19, with farmers like the Chambers trying to look ahead.

“We’d like to just be able to cover the cost of production and get through this,” said Roger.

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