Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced yesterday that the US Department for Agriculture (USDA) will buy up to $100m-worth of pork products, up to $50m in chicken products, and up to $10m of lamb products for “federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks”. He said he hoped the move would help relieve pressure on US producers, which have been hit by high feed prices as a result of the drought.
“President Obama and I will continue to take swift action to get help to America’s farmers and ranchers through this difficult time,” said Vilsack.
“These purchases will assist pork, catfish, chicken and lamb producers, who are currently struggling due to challenging market conditions and the high cost of feed resulting from the widespread drought. The purchases will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilise market conditions, and provide high-quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA’s nutrition programmes.
The USDA said that under the Emergency Surplus Removal Program, it can use Section 32 funds to purchase meat and poultry products, in order to assist producers affected by natural disasters.
The meat will be used for a variety of state-funded food projects, including the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and for distribution to victims of natural disasters.
The National Chicken Council (NCC) has welcomed the government support. NCC president Mike Brown said: “At this very difficult economic time for chicken producers due to the severe drought and impending corn shortage that will unfortunately continue well into the future, I am grateful to USDA for working promptly and effectively with NCC to have a special bonus purchase program for chicken.
“By providing chicken through this program, USDA will help feed many economically-stressed Americans while at the same time helping to stabilize the chicken market. NCC looks forward to continuing to work with AMS to help ensure full success of the program.”
Other measures to be introduced by the Obama’s administration in response to the drought include assistance for livestock and crop producers, increased capacity for lending to farmers by the National Credit Union Administration and emergency waivers for federal truck weight regulations and hours of service requirements to drought-stricken communities.