Producers who sold hogs during 2020 could be eligible for assistance under a $50 million program rolled out Monday by the Department of Agriculture.

USDA’s Farm Service Agency plans to issue payments through the Spot Market Hog Pandemic Program (SMHPP), which will pay $54 per head for hogs sold on the cash market from April 16, 2020, through Sept. 1, 2020. Payments are limited to the first 10,000 head of hogs sold on a negotiated basis during the time period. 

In a release, USDA said the program was being created because “packer production was reduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic due to employee illness and supply chain issues, resulting in fewer negotiated hogs being procured and subsequent lower market prices.”

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FSA Administrator Zach Ducheneaux said previous industry assistance “used flat rates across the hog industry, and this didn’t take into account the various levels of harm felt by different producers.” SMHPP, he added, will “target assistance to hog producers who were hit the hardest during the pandemic.”

USDA says contract producers, who grow animals under a direct arrangement with a company, are not eligible for SMHPP.

The program is the latest in USDA’s use of funds authorized through pandemic recovery legislation, including a July announcement to compensate farms forced to depopulate hog and poultry operations due to processing plant shutdowns.

Signup for the program begins Wednesday.

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