A bipartisan group of eight U.S. Senators, led by U.S. Sens. Tina Smith (D-MN) and Mike Rounds (R-SD), yesterday urged U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Purdue to assure that bison producers will be included in the agricultural assistance package that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is developing under the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“Bison producers across the country have felt the economic impact of the COVID 19 pandemic,” the Senators wrote in a letter sent to USDA Thursday. “As you consider how to assign specific payment amounts to livestock producers, we urge you to assist our nation’s bison producers in a fair and reasonable manner as their traditional markets continue to close.”
Dave Carter, executive director of the National Bison Association, welcomed the support of the eight Senators as “an important step to keep the needs of bison producers on the table as USDA finalizes the details in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program.”
“Because we are a relatively small segment of agriculture, our producers often get overlooked. Yet, bison ranchers, processors, and marketers are all experiencing the same disruption as our neighbors in other sectors of the livestock business. We appreciate the eight Senators for weighing in to make sure the bison sector is included.”
Sen. Rounds said, “South Dakota is the leading state in bison production. Like every other sector of our economy, our bison producers are hurting from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Our legislation will make certain they are eligible for much-needed assistance,” said Rounds.
Sen. Smith added, “The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted bison producers of all sizes. Now that they’ve been hit with significant hardships and lost large swaths of their markets, we need to make sure resources are available so we can help large and small producers alike.”
While Secretary Perdue has announced that USDA will offer $16 billion in assistance to crop and livestock producers, the details of that aid package are still being developed.
In addition to Smith and Rounds, the letter was signed by U.S. Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Mike Enzi (R-WY), John Thune (R-SD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), John Tester (D-MT), and Kevin Cramer (R-ND).
In late April, North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring also sent a letter to the Secretary urging specific assistance for the nation’s bison producers.