DES MOINES, IOWA — In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force on April 27, Iowa Republican leaders asked the administration to help pork producers in their state who are struggling through plant closures and being forced to consider euthanizing pigs in lieu of an available processing plant where they can be slaughtered and processed for consumption.

The letter was signed by Iowa US Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and Mike Naig, Iowa's agriculture secretary. The letter was sent before President Donald Trump signed the Defense Production Act to keep meat processing plants open.

"Given severe processing capacity constraints, pigs are backing up on farms with nowhere to go, resulting in overcrowding and animal welfare issues," the letter said. "At current capacity levels, there are 700,000 pigs across the nation that cannot be processed each week and must be humanely euthanized. Iowa produces one-third of the nation's pork supply and one-fourth of the nation's pork processing capacity. Simply put, Iowa pork producers cannot operate if they can't send their pigs to market."

The letter noted that US pork production has lost approximately 25% of its processing capacity over the past month. Officials also asked for the resources to be deployed to assist in the humane euthanasia of animals. 

"Resources are critically needed both on farm and in harvest facilities not currently producing food to safely, humanely and efficiently depopulate animals," the Republican lawmakers wrote. "No matter where these depopulation efforts take place, resources must be brought to bear to assure environmentally responsible disposal methods are practiced."

Next, the group asked for pork producers to have "legal immunity from attempts by activist organizations to penalize producers who are required to take these actions to protect the welfare of their animals."

Finally, the letter asked for mental health assistance for farmers, veterinarians and others involved with the process of euthanizing and disposing of animals. 

"This is an emergency in our rural communities unlike any seen in recent history," the letter concluded. "Swift and decisive action will be required to preserve Iowa's farm communities and ensure that safe, affordable and abundant food remains available in this crisis."