USDA gives pork industry a boost

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WASHINGTON — USDA plans to purchase up to $50 million of pork products to be donated to child nutrition and other domestic food assistance programs.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service purchases a variety of high-quality food products each year for the national school lunch program, the school breakfast program, the summer food service program, the food distribution program on Indian reservations, the nutrition program for the elderly, the commodity supplemental food program and the emergency food assistance program.

USDA also makes emergency purchases of commodities for distribution to victims of natural disasters.

How it works

Based upon USDA’s intent to buy these pork products, the administration’s Food and Nutrition Service will survey potential recipients to determine how much product will be accepted for shipping.

The Agricultural Marketing Service will seek the lowest overall cost by publicly inviting bids to supply the desired quantity and by awarding contracts to responsible bidders.

Government food experts work to ensure that all purchased food is healthful and nutritious. Food items are normally required to be low in fat, sugar and sodium. The commodities must meet specified grade requirements and be USDA-inspected or graded to ensure quality.

The service purchases only products of 100 percent domestic origin.

Pleased

The National Pork Producers Council has commended the Bush administration for its decision to lend assistance to U.S. pork producers to help them weather the current economic crisis in the hog business.

Due mostly to a doubling of feed costs, producers have lost $30-$50 on each hog marketed over the last 30 days. Economists have estimated that the industry will need to reduce production by at least 10 percent — meaning a reduction of 600,000 sows — to restore profitability.

Such a cutback, however, could result in less-efficient packing plants closing, less manure for crop fertilizer and correspondingly a need for more man-made, foreign-produced fertilizer, a hike in pork retail prices because of a smaller supply and lost jobs.

Over the past seven months, this crisis has cost the pork industry $2.1 billion.
Bryan Black, council president, said the USDA’s decision to buy the pork will benefit not only pork producers, but the U.S. economy and the people who rely on government food programs.

“It will help our industry reduce the herd and thereby bring supply and demand back into balance and allow producers to continue to provide consumers with economical, nutritious pork,” he said.

Big benefits

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau, said USDA’s action could not have come at a better time and the benefits are far-reaching.

“This procurement program offers two important benefits: It helps farmers facing record-low pork prices, while at the same time, providing healthy, nutritious protein to their fellow citizens who are in need. It’s a win-win for producers and the public,” Stallman said.

The American Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers Council requested this purchase in a recent meeting with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer.

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