The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced it will be help out farmers and ranchers being hurt by the drought by purchasing up to $170 million of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish for use in local food banks and federal food assistance programs.
According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the USDA will buy up to $100 million of pork, up to $10 million of catfish, up to $50 million of chicken, and up to $10 million of lamb in order to assist farmers and ranchers struggling with soaring feed costs as a result of the drought.
"These purchases will assist pork, catfish, chicken and lamb producers who are currently struggling due to challenging market conditions and the high cost of feed resulting from the widespread drought," said Sec. Vilsack in a press release. "The purchases will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilize market conditions, and provide high quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA's nutrition programs."
Also See: Impact of Drought on Food Prices
So far during the 2012 crop year, the USDA has designated 1,496 counties in 33 states as disaster areas because of the drought, making farmers and ranchers, as well as agriculture-related small businesses in those counties eligible for low-interest emergency recovery loans.
Government purchases of bulk food products is by no means unusual. Every year, the USDA purchases a variety of food products for the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. In addition, the USDA makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters.
Funds USDA bulk food purchases is allocated annually by Congress as part of the federal budget process.
Federal Freezers: With meat surpluses already running high, the pork, catfish, chicken and lamb to be purchased won't be used right away. But according to President Obama speaking at a campaign event in Council Bluffs Iowa, that's okay because, "we'll freeze it for later - we've got a lot of freezers."
With all of those federal freezers packed with ten million dollars worth of catfish, maybe the USDA could throw us a free National Fish Fry next spring.
Also See: Is America Running Out of Farmers?