As part of the Obama Administration's commitment to do everything it can to help farmers, ranchers, small businesses, and communities being impacted by the nation's persistent drought, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced USDA's intent to purchase up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken, and catfish for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks.
The purchase will help relieve pressure on American livestock producers during the drought, while helping to bring the nation's meat supply in line with demand and providing high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA's nutrition programs.
“President Obama and I will continue to take swift action to get help to America's farmers and ranchers through this difficult time,” Vilsack says. “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, stabilize market conditions and provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA's nutrition programs.”
Today, USDA announced its intention to purchase up to $100 million of pork products, up to $10 million of catfish products, up to $50 million in chicken products and up to $10 million of lamb products for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks. Through the Emergency Surplus Removal Program, USDA can use Section 32 funds to purchase meat and poultry products to assist farmers and ranchers who have been affected by natural disasters. The pork, lamb and catfish purchases are based on analyses of current market conditions. A major factor affecting livestock producers is the value of feed, which is currently running high because of the drought.
"The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) is grateful for USDA's $100 million supplemental pork purchase, which will be used for various federal food assistance programs," says NPPC President R.C. Hunt, a North Carolina pork producer.
"This purchase will help pork producers who are struggling with the effects of this severe drought, which has adversely affected much of the nation's corn crop.
"In fact, many producers still face the prospect of severe losses because of record-high feed prices, which have gone up because of the drought.
"NPPC will continue to work with USDA to help pork producers through this current crisis," he says.
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases a variety of high-quality food products each year to support 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 and the Emergency Food Assistance Program.
USDA also makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters. Government food experts work to ensure that all purchased food is healthful and nutritious. Food items are required to be low in fat, sugar and sodium. The commodities must meet specified requirements and be certified to ensure quality. AMS purchases only products of 100% domestic origin.
Last week in Washington, President Obama convened his White House Rural Council to review Executive Branch response actions and to develop additional policy initiatives to assist drought-stricken Americans. Following the meeting, the White House announced a number of new measures the Administration is taking, including USDA's assistance for livestock and crop producers, the National Credit Union Administration's increased capacity for lending to customers including farmers, and the U.S. Department of Transportation's emergency waivers for federal truck weight regulations and hours of service requirements to drought-stricken communities. President Obama also stressed the need for the entire administration to continue to look at further steps it can take to ease the pain of this historic drought.
Within the last month, USDA has opened the Conservation Reserve Program to emergency haying and grazing, has lowered the borrower interest rate for emergency loans, and has worked with crop insurance companies to provide more flexibility to farmers. USDA has also announced the following:
During the 2012 crop year, USDA has designated 1,628 unduplicated counties across 33 states as disaster areas—1,496 due to drought—making all qualified farm operators in the areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans.
Visit www.usda.gov/drought for the latest information regarding USDA's drought response and assistance.