A bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers sent a letter today to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that USDA expedite its payments to chicken farmers that had experienced a revenue loss related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter, led by Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), Rep. Steve Womack (R-AR), and Rep. John Rose (R-TN), noted that Congress had authorized and appropriated $1 billion in December of 2020 specifically to compensate growers that raised animals under a contract.

“On December 21, 2020, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which included additional resources for USDA to continue supporting American farmers,” the letter read. “The bill also included funding for USDA to provide direct payments for contract chicken growers who previously had been excluded from assistance provided by the [Coronavirus Food Assistance Program]. We are concerned by the fact that these chicken growers still have not received federal assistance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. We recognize that it is challenging to determine how losses and payments should be calculated fairly, given variations in the timing of when growers receive and finish raising their flocks. Still, we encourage you to proceed swiftly with making fair payments.”

USDA has never compensated farmers that raised animals under a contract. It has announced it plans to do so but that doing so would require formal rulemaking, which could take months. The department has administered payments to “price-loss” commodities that settle transactions in a cash market or price spot market, such as those in the beef industry or specialty crops. Chicken growers that own their birds and do not have contracts with integrators are eligible for USDA support at a specified price per bird.

Senators Coons and Wicker, Co-Chairs of the Senate Chicken Caucus, were joined by a bipartisan group of 15 Senators, including Tom Carper (D-DE), Mark Warner (D-VA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), John Boozman (R-AR), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Richard Burr (R-NC), James Inhofe (R-OK), and John Cornyn (R-TX).

Additional House signees include Representatives Jim Costa (D-CA), Rick Crawford (R-AR), Andy Harris (R-MD), Diana Harshbarger (R-TN), Mike Rogers (R-AL), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ben Cline (R-VA), Austin Scott (R-GA), Pete Sessions (R-TX), Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Buddy Carter (R-GA), Billy Long (R-MO), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Greg Steube (R-FL), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), French Hill (R-AR), Elaine Luria (D-VA), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Michael Guest (R-MS), Drew Ferguson (R-GA), Dan Bishop (R-NC), Rick Allen (R-GA), Greg Murphy (R-NC), Jerry Carl (R-AL), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Julia Letlow (R-LA), Dan Meuser (R-PA), David Rouzer (R-NC), Barry Moore (R-AL), Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), Ted Budd (R-NC), Michelle Fischbach (R-MN), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Mike Johnson (R-LA), David Kustoff (R-TN), Pat Fallon (R-TX), Guy Reschenthaler (R-PA), Steven Palazzo (R-MS), Richard Hudson (R-NC), and John Joyce (R-PA).

The letter can be found here.