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Iowa governor: 600,000 hogs at risk of euthanization as processing slows

Gov. Kim Reynolds' daily press conference Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 11 a.m. on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the state.
Credit: AP
Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds speaks during her daily COVID-19 press conference at the Emergency Operations Center, Wednesday, May 27, 2020 in Johnston, Iowa. (Brian Powers/The Des Moines Register via AP, Pool)

IOWA, USA — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' daily press conference Thursday, May 28, 2020 at 11 a.m. on how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the state.

The Deputy Director of Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH), Sarah Reisetter, confirmed an outbreak at the Tyson meat processing facility in Storm Lake where 555 employees tested positive for COVID-19 out of the 2,517 workers employed. 

Reisetter noted that businesses are not required to notify IDPH when there is an outbreak. 

"It's a sensitive balance between protecting the identity of the patient and protecting the health of the community," Reisetter said. "

She also asked Iowans to answer the phone if the department attempts to contact them because they had contact with someone who tested positive.

Public health officials will not ask for resident's social security number or for financial information. 

"We are still in substantial spread throughout the state of Iowa," Reynolds said. "We are going to have to learn to live with and manage COVID-19 until when or if a vaccine is discovered."

On Iowa's agriculture industry:

Short term closures and reduced production is expected to have a multi-billion impact on Iowa's agriculture industry, Reynolds said. 

A 25% reduction of pork processing means 600,000 pigs in the state are at risk of being euthanized. 

Producers can apply for the Iowa Disposal Assistance Program to "receive state funding to properly dispose of carcasses in an environmentally-sound manner," the Iowa Department of Agriculture & Land Stewardship website says. 

RELATED: Applications now open for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

Producers can receive $40 per hog for euthanasia. Mike Naig, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture, said the aid does not replace the market value of the animal and is for disposal.

"Producers are going to be dealing with this throughout the summer months," Naig said. "This is the last resort. No producer wants to be in this situation." 

When asked about animal rights activists across the state who object to the euthanization of animals, Naig said, "I think it's disgusting." 

"I think that our producers are experiencing an unprecedented disruption to their business and their way of life and we've got folks with a clear agenda that are kicking our farmers when they're down."

Additional funding in the state

Reynolds said in May the Iowa National Guard operated 25 mobile food distribution centers which provided 400,000 meals to people in rural areas. There is also an additional $60,000 allocated for ongoing AmeriCorps efforts.

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