Iowa farm leaders applauded Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds' action last week to allocate approximately $100 million of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to support a range of programs to help the state’s farmers, biofuel refineries, local meat processors and others involved in agriculture hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This assistance through the CARES Act will help farm families as they work to rebuild and recover,” said Craig Hill, a Warren County crop and livestock farmer and IFBF president. “This has been a very difficult year in Iowa agriculture. Farmers are battling low prices and negative margins, the effects of the pandemic and the Aug. 10 derecho, which devastated crops and battered farms across a wide swath of Iowa.” 

Reynolds said the state’s investment in a variety of assistance programs reflects the critical role that agriculture and agribusiness play in the state’s overall economic recovery. “COVID-19 and a devastating derecho dealt a major blow to everything from the demand for ethanol to the supply of meat on grocery store shelves,” Reynolds said in a press release. “But just as important are the livelihoods of thousands of Iowa farm families, agricultural industries and the communities they support.”

The state’s allocations through the CARES Act will provide:

• $60 million to the Iowa Livestock Producer Relief Fund. This program, administered by the Iowa Economic Development Auth­­ority (IEDA), will use the agency’s existing small business relief program infrastructure to provide grants of up to $10,000 to eligible farmers who raise pork, beef, chicken, turkeys, dairy, fish or sheep. It is designed to address working capital needs to help stabilize livestock producers. 

• $15.5 million to the state Biofuel Grant Program. This pro­­gram, also administered by the IEDA, will provide relief to Iowa ethanol and biodiesel producers based on gallons produced. Grants will also be awarded through the IEDA’s existing small business relief program and are capped at a maximum grant of $750,000 per producer. 

• $7 million to the Renewable Fuel Retail Recovery Program, a previously announced Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) program that helps expand retail fueling infrastructure for higher blend renewable fuels, including E15 and B11.

• $6 million for the Iowa Be­­ginning Farmer Debt Relief Fund, an IEDA program that will provide eligible beginning farmers with a long-term debt service payments of up to $10,000, to be paid directly to their lender. 

• $2 million for the Meat Pro­­cessing Development and Ex­­pansion Program, which is de­­signed to aid small meat processors. This IDALS program is focused on expanding processing capacity across the state to meet protein demand.

• $500,000 for the Farm Produce and Protein Program, which is designed to help specialty ag producers in Iowa as well as the schools that purchase their products. In addition to supporting local growers of fruits and vegetables to expand their capacity, the IDALS program provides grants to schools that buy produce and other local crops and protein sources.

Livestock disposal

In addition, Reynolds allocated up to $9 million in funding for the Iowa Disposal Assistance Program. This program, launched last spring, provides direct payments to farmers forced to euthanize and dispose of livestock due to lack of market access because of slowdowns at meat processing plants. 

Farmers can apply for IEDA-administered programs at be­­ginning Aug. 31. Programs ad­­ministered by IDALS were op­­ened last week and can be accessed at