WILLMAR — Minnesota turkey farmers who took a financial hit because of the COVID-19 pandemic could be eligible for assistance through a state cost-share program.

Approximately $1.25 million is available in the program, including about $750,000 for producers and up to $500,000 for processors.

The financial assistance is available for contract and independent turkey growers that marketed fewer liveweight pounds from March through September of this year because of COVID-19.

The market shift happened as the turkey industry tried to mitigate losses during the pandemic and pivoted quickly to utilize different options, which meant a reduction in production and revenue for farmers.

Applications for the “turkey market loss cost-share program” must be sent to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture by 4 p.m. Dec. 1.

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Payment rates will be determined after all applications are received, according to the department.

The program is the result of months of work by the members of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture who looked for ways to help turkey farmers and the industry weather the challenging times.

“As a third-generation turkey farmer, you think you have seen it all,” said Paul Kvistad, president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association and farmer from Wood Lake, in a news release.

“However, COVID has put a strain on farmers that no one could have prepared for and we are grateful for this aid,” Kvistad said.

Money for the program is made possible by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, provided by Congress and distributed by Gov. Tim Walz.

“While our farmers live with risk every day and roll with the punches, this aid from Gov. Tim Walz and Ag Commissioner Thom Petersen is the shot in the arm we needed heading into our most important season — Thanksgiving,” said Sarah Anderson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

A list of eligibility requirements and an application can be found on the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website at: www.mda.state.mn.us/turkey-market-loss-cost-share.

Questions about securing the necessary liveweight pounds statement from the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council should be directed to info@minnesotaturkey.com or by calling 763-682-2171.