USDA to Purchase Pork and Turkey to Aid Sectors

US - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack yesterday announced USDA's intention to purchase turkey, pork, lamb, and walnut products for federal food nutrition assistance programmes.
calendar icon 1 April 2009
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"These purchases will assist the turkey, pork, lamb and walnut sectors, which are currently struggling due to depressed market conditions," said Secretary Vilsack. "Today's announcement will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilise market conditions, stimulate the economy, and provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of our nutrition programmes."

USDA intends to purchase $60 million of turkey, $25 million of pork, $2 million of lamb, and $29.7 million of walnuts. With today's announcement to buy commodities, USDA will survey potential suppliers to seeking the lowest overall cost by publicly inviting bids and awarding contracts to responsible bidders.

These purchases reflect a variety of high-quality food products each year to support the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Programme, the Food Distribution Programme on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Programme and The Emergency Food Assistance Programme. USDA also makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters.

Government food experts work to ensure that all purchased food is healthy 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-certified to ensure quality. USDA only purchases products that are grown in America.

NPPC Commends USDA Decision

The National Pork Producers Council has commended the decision made by the USDA.

“The action by USDA to buy additional pork will benefit America’s pork producers, the US economy and the people who rely on the government’s various food programmes,” said NPPC President Don Butler. “We are extremely pleased with Secretary Vilsack’s decision to purchase more pork. It will help our industry bring supply and demand closer into balance and allow producers to continue to provide consumers with economical, nutritious pork.”

NPPC asked Secretary Vilsack to take action to address a crisis that over the past 18 months has cost the pork industry more than $3 billion in equity. Due mostly to higher feed costs, producers since October 2007 have lost an average of $20 on each hog marketed.

In a 30 January letter, NPPC urged USDA to buy pork products from market hogs for emergency food programs, food pantries, senior and elderly feeding programs, hunger programmes or other non-commercial food channels. NPPC suggested that the agency purchase cooked sausage patties, pork crumbles, trimmings, picnics (shoulders) and boneless picnic meat.

This is the second time in less than a year that USDA has agreed to a supplemental pork purchase. Last April, at NPPC’s request, the agency agreed to a $50 million purchase of pork products derived from sows as a way to reduce the national herd and stabilise pork prices. (Some industry economists estimate that recent productivity gains – more pigs per sow – will reduce the herd by two to four per cent.)

In its most recent request, NPPC also asked Secretary Vilsack to use USDA resources, including the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, to support pork exports, which in 2008 were at record levels and helped temper pork producers’ losses.

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