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Lawmakers ask USDA to help pork producers

Members of the US Senate and House have urged the US Department of Agriculture to lend assistance to US pork producers to help them out of a 2-year-old economic crisis. The National Pork Producers Council applauded the congressional request.

In separate letters sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, 24 senators and 63 representatives asked that USDA take the following actions to provide “much-needed emergency relief” to the US pork industry:

• Purchase $100 million of pork with funds from the Section 32 program, which uses customs receipts to buy non-price-supported commodities for federal food-assistance programs.
• Collaborate with other federal agencies to help address swine disease surveillance on farms, related diagnostic and vaccine development and swine industry support.
• Work with the US Trade Representative to open export markets to U.S. pork, particularly China, which continues to impose non-science-based restrictions on US pork since the outbreak of H1N1.

The congressional efforts, led by Al Franken, D-Minn., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., in the Senate and by Tim Walz, D-Minn., and Steve King, R-Iowa, in the House, were made to help pork producers deal with losses averaging $22.50 per hog since September 2007. Over the past two years, the US pork industry has lost more than $5 billion, and producers have lost more than 65% of the equity in their operations.

“US pork producers are grateful to the members of Congress for seeking assistance for our industry,” said NPPC President Don Butler. “We particularly applaud the efforts of Sens. Franken and Burr and Reps. Walz and King. They recognise that the US pork industry is a vital part of the US economy, providing hundreds of thousands of mostly rural jobs and providing consumers around the world with a safe, nutritious product.”

In mid-August, NPPC urged USDA to make three $50 million purchases of pork, using fiscal 2009, fiscal 2010 and Section 32 funds. USDA agreed in early September to buy $30 million of pork, using fiscal 2009 funds.

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