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USDA Agrees To Help US Pork Producers

by 5m Editor
7 September 2009, at 9:15am

US - The National Pork Producers Council commended US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for his decision to lend assistance to the US pork industry to help it weather a nearly two year old economic crisis that has put some producers out of business.

The US Department of Agriculture agreed to purchase up to $30 million of pork products, which will be used for various federal food programs. Secretary Vilsack, who heard from hundreds of hurting pork producers, announced on Thursday (3 September) the pork purchase. USDA also is working to reopen pork export markets that closed in the wake of the H1N1 flu outbreak.

"The action by USDA to buy additional pork will benefit America’s pork producers, the US economy and the people who benefit from government food programs," said NPPC President Don Butler. "NPPC is extremely grateful to Secretary Vilsack for recognizing the plight of our producers and for taking action to help them. The pork purchase and the ongoing efforts to reopen export markets are important steps that will help our industry bring pork supply and demand back into balance and allow producers to continue providing consumers worldwide with economical, nutritious pork products."

In a letter to the secretary on 17 August, NPPC urged USDA to take immediate action to address a crisis that since September 2007 has seen producers losing an average of more than $21 on each hog marketed. The pork industry has lost more than $4.6 billion in equity over the past two years. NPPC asked the agency to:

Purchase immediately an additional $50 million of pork for various federal food programs, using fiscal 2009 funds. Fiscal 2009 ends 30 September. (USDA annually buys pork for food programs; it bought $62.6 million worth in 2008, for example.)
Urge Congress to lift a spending cap on Section 32 funds, and use $50 million of $350 million available to purchase pork for the program, which uses customs receipts to buy non-price-supported commodities for food programs.
Buy on 1 October a minimum of $50 million of pork, using fiscal 2010 funds. Fiscal 2010 begins 1 October. The purchase would be in addition to USDA’s annual buy.
Use $100 million of the $1 billion appropriated for addressing the H1N1 virus for the swine industry, including $70 million for swine disease surveillance, $10 million for diagnostics and H1N1 vaccine development and$20 million for industry support.
Work with the US Trade Representative to open export markets to US pork. Several countries, including China, continue to impose unwarranted bans on US pork, citing the H1N1 flu.
Study the economic impact on the livestock industry of an expansion of corn-ethanol production and usage. EPA has proposed raising the cap on blending ethanol into gasoline to 15 per cent from its current 10 per cent.