10.02.20

Gardner Urges USDA to Provide COVID-19 Relief for Bison Industry

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and 11 of his bipartisan colleagues are urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide stability and relief for bison producers struggling because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic through a purchase of bison meat.

“Like most other sectors of agriculture, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has hit the bison industry hard. Significant disruptions in the farmers’ market sector, restaurant trade, and agritourism have altogether compounded the difficulties for bison ranchers. According to the National Bison Association, between January and April of this year, bull prices declined by an average of 37 percent; heifer prices declined by an average of 25 percent; and the cost of feeding bison in finishing facilities increased by an average of 12 percent,” wrote Senator Gardner and his colleagues.

“More than ever, the bison industry needs support. An unanticipated over-supply of harvest-ready animals, drought across the heart of bison production territory, and the COVID-19 public health emergency have created an uncertain economic outlook,” the senators wrote.

The full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Under Secretary Ibach,

Thank you for your efforts to help farmers and ranchers and for including bison in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) 2. In light of the continuing over supply challenges facing bison producers, we write to express our support for the National Bison Association’s request for a $17 million Section 32 purchase of bison meat.  

Like most other sectors of agriculture, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has hit the bison industry hard. Significant disruptions in the farmers’ market sector, restaurant trade, and agritourism have altogether compounded the difficulties for bison ranchers. According to the National Bison Association, between January and April of this year, bull prices declined by an average of 37 percent; heifer prices declined by an average of 25 percent; and the cost of feeding bison in finishing facilities increased by an average of 12 percent.  

More than ever, the bison industry needs support. An unanticipated over-supply of harvest-ready animals, drought across the heart of bison production territory, and the COVID-19 public health emergency have created an uncertain economic outlook. As you know, existing authority under Section 32 of the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1935 (Public Law 74-320) allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make purchases of farm products to be used for distribution through the federal food and nutrition programs. Granting the National Bison Association’s $17 million purchase request would provide much needed stability and market relief for bisonproducers struggling in the current environment. 

Thank you for your consideration of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions, or should you need additional information.

Gardner has requested significant support for Colorado agriculture producers during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Gardner encouraged Colorado agricultural producers to apply for new coronavirus relief made available by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in September 2020.
  • In September 2020, Gardner voted for the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools, and Small Businesses Act, which would have provided an additional $20 billion in support for agriculture producers if Senate Democrats did not obstruct the package from moving forward.
  • Gardner wrote to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue in September 2020 requesting that resources made available through the CARES Act be used to provide support for wheat farmers that includes assistance for all classes of wheat. 
  • Gardner cosponsored bipartisan legislation in July 2020 that would allow the USDA to authorize emergency haying and grazing on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) during a pandemic like COVID-19.
  • In June 2020, Gardner hosted U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in Colorado and held a Farm Bureau stakeholder roundtable in Keenesburg, where they discussed COVID-19 relief for agricultural producers.
  • In a letter to his Republican colleagues in the U.S. Senate, Gardner called for changes to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide additional relief to small agricultural producers.
  • Gardner, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), and 26 U.S. Senators urged President Trump to eliminate payment limits for livestock, dairy and specialty crop producers in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).
  • Gardner, Bennet, and Colorado Governor Jared Polis made a unified request for CARES Act changes to benefit Coloradans, including modifications to the PPP that would ensure small agricultural producers who employ individuals under the H-2A program can have their payroll expenses count for loan forgiveness purposes.
  • Gardner and Bennet sent a letter urging the USDA to ensure the needs of Colorado’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities are met as the agency allocates disaster relief funds.
  • Gardner sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue calling on the department to extend assistance to the dairy industry, which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • Gardner and Bennet requested the USDA to take additional steps to provide relief for farmers to ensure the continuity of food supply during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Gardner and a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators urged the USDA to provide maximum flexibility to farmers by ensuring that temporary flexibilities on farm loans announced by the Farm Service Agency were made permanent during COVID-19 and ensuring adequate and equitable access to credit during this period of market uncertainty.
  • In April 2020, Gardner wrote to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting that he provide immediate assistance to cattle producers by using the resources provided in the recently enacted CARES Act.

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.