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NPPC asks USDA to save pork industry

Asking for help to save the US pork industry and thousands of jobs, the National Pork Producers Council has urged the US Department of Agriculture to lend assistance to US pork producers to help them weather a nearly 2-year-old economic crisis.

In a letter sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, NPPC requested $250 million in financial assistance and other actions that should help producers, who since September 2007 have lost an average of more than $21 on each hog marketed. It asked the agency to:

• Purchase immediately an additional $50 million of pork for various federal food programs – other than ones in USDA's Section 32 program – using fiscal 2009 funds. Fiscal 2009 ends Sept. 30. The funds would not come from USDA's Section 32 program. (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 the Section 32 program, and use $50 million of $300 million available to purchase pork for the program, which uses customs receipts to buy non-price-supported commodities for school lunch and other food programs.
• Buy on Oct. 1 a minimum of $50 million of pork, using fiscal 2010 funds. Fiscal 2010 begins Oct. 1. 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. This would include $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 because of the H1N1 flu.
• Study the economic impact on the livestock industry of an expansion of corn-ethanol production and usage. The US Environmental Protection Agency has proposed raising the cap on blending ethanol into gasoline to 15% from its current 10%.

“US pork producers are in desperate straits right now, and they need a little help from USDA,” said NPPC President Don Butler. “The request NPPC has made today not only will help pork producers and Americans who benefit from government feeding programs but tens of thousands of mostly rural jobs supported by the US pork industry.”

Governors from nine states Aug. 7 also asked the federal government to help US pork producers, urging USDA to make a supplemental $50 million purchase of pork and to lift the Section 32 spending cap to make additional pork buys.

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