BOISE, Idaho -- Idaho’s congressional delegation today sent a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue calling for special attention to Idaho’s agricultural industry, which is experiencing great economic disruption due to COVID-19.
Idaho is home to 25,000 farms and 185 commodities, many of which are seeing severe impacts to the farm, processing, and supply chain levels. With many of Idaho’s commodities produced specifically for food service, many markets no longer exist.
The delegation asked Secretary Perdue to keep the interests of Idaho’s farmers and ranchers in mind as agriculture assistance in the CARES Act is allocated by the USDA, and also provided the Secretary with a selection of correspondence from Idaho producers and agricultural organizations personally detailing the disruption Idaho’s farms and ranches are experiencing.
“We hope this provides perspective as you make important decisions on how to use the resources included in the CARES Act,” wrote the delegation. “We also stand ready to work with USDA and our colleagues in Congress to continue to find ways to support our agricultural industry through this unprecedented time. The necessary measures taken to combat COVID-19 have changed the landscape of our economy, especially our food marketing chain, and it is our duty to ensure we don’t punish our farmers and ranchers and jeopardize the food security of the nation in the process.”
Full text of the letter can be found here and below.
April 17, 2020
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Secretary Perdue,
On behalf of the Idaho Delegation, we appreciate and applaud your entire team at USDA during these difficult times. Your staff at headquarters all the way down to local offices in Idaho have been very responsive and helpful to our farmers and ranchers.
In an effort to capture the larger picture of our agricultural industry, which makes up 20 percent of Idaho’s economy, the Congressional Delegation reached out to food producers across the state to help better understand the COVID-19 impacts to our 25,000 farms and 185 different commodities.
While we anticipate more information will come available in the coming weeks, we believe the enclosed emails and letters help illustrate the damage COVID-19 has caused the agriculture sector in Idaho, seeming to leave no commodity untouched. With nearly a million pounds of milk being dumped a day and contracts between potato farmers and processors being cancelled while crops are still in the ground, this is just the beginning of what could be years of hardships for our farmers. The beef industry estimates it will suffer $13 billion total in losses due to COVID-19, and Idaho will be disproportionately impacted with our 2.2 million head of cattle. Onion growers face similar challenges, estimating in Idaho they are currently dumping 5 percent and reporting as much as a 95% reduction in business, all before their August harvest. Our sheep industry losses are two-fold, with the domestic lamb demand cut in half and its wool export industry completely decimated. Idaho is now the second largest producer of hops, and they stand to lose 15 percent of their crop’s value. Our grain producers are suffering decreases to barley production and therefore, increases in spring wheat as an alternative crop for many commodities, which will increase supply and drive prices further down.
This is only a snapshot of our diverse agricultural industry in Idaho, and we hope this provides perspective as you make important decisions on how to use the resources included in the CARES Act. We also stand ready to work with USDA and our colleagues in Congress to continue to find ways to support our agricultural industry through this unprecedented time. The necessary measures taken to combat COVID-19 have changed the landscape of our economy, especially our food marketing chain, and it is our duty to ensure we don’t punish our farmers and ranchers and jeopardize the food security of the nation in the process.
Please see the enclosed attachments from the various agriculture sectors in Idaho to assist USDA in surveying the needs of the agriculture community. We will continue to keep you apprised of future updates from Idahoans as the situation of COVID-19 continues to evolve.
Thank you again for your leadership and attention to the many issues facing our agricultural industry. We stand ready to assist your agency so you can continue to serve Idaho farmers and ranchers.