State leaders are seeking assistance from the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program for the state’s egg industry, saying it has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic as demand for liquid egg products has significantly declined as restaurants and schools closed in the state’s effort to slow the pandemic’s spread.

Iowa leaders are seeking federal help for the state’s egg industry, hoping to crack into the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to help Iowa’s egg producers, who have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Iowa is the nation’s No. 1 egg-producing state, with 55 egg companies producing about 16 billion eggs a year. While demand for shelled eggs has been on the increase with more people working from and eating at home, state agriculture officials say producers who contribute to the liquid egg market have suffered significant declines in demand with the closure of schools and restaurants as the state took measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst, Gov. Kim Reynolds, and state Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig sent a letter to the USDA seeking assistance for the state’s egg industry. Nearly 70% of the state’s egg-laying hens produce eggs for the liquid egg market, which saw a 68% decline as a result of the pandemic, Grassley said in the letter. Iowa has more than 58 million egg-laying hens, with its residents eating 1 in 6 eggs consumed each year in the U.S. “Egg producers should also be included in the program since they have been greatly impacted and play a key role in our food supply and state economy,” Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said in the letter. According to the state agriculture department, the industry employs nearly 2,400 people, and contributes about $2.6 billion to the state’s economy.