ROOSTER

A rooster looks out of its cage. Delmarva lawmakers with the Senate Chicken Caucus want to see faster COVID relief going to chicken farmers hurt by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Bikas Das)

EASTON — Delmarva’s federal lawmakers are pressing the Biden administration and U.S. Department of Agriculture to quicken the pace of COVID relief for chicken farmers.

The six U.S. senators representing the Delmarva Peninsula and U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, who represents Maryland’s Eastern Shore, have written the USDA expressing concerns about pandemic farm relief not yet getting to some chicken farmers.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., is a co-chair and the other senators are members of the Senate Chicken Caucus. The group — which includes lawmakers from other farming states — wrote U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on June 4. House members such as Harris signed onto the effort.

“COVID-19 has severely affected the bottom lines of agricultural producers across the country, including many chicken growers in our home states,’’ the lawmakers said in the letter.

They said federal spending bills approved in December “included additional resources for USDA to continue supporting American farmers.”

U.S. Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland, Tom Carper of Delaware and Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia are also part of the Senate Chicken Caucus.

The lawmakers said the spending bill “also included funding for USDA to provide direct payments for contract chicken growers” who previously excluded from other COVID assistance.” But poultry farmers are not seeing the federal help, the chicken caucus contends.

“We are concerned by the fact that these chicken growers still have not received federal assistance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic,” congressional members said in the letter.

The help for farmers is part of expansive federal spending efforts in response to the pandemic and its economic impacts.Poultry farming is one of the dominant industries and largest employers on the Delmarva Peninsula.

The six senators representing the peninsula are Democrats while Harris is a Republican.

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