WASHINGTON Oct 22 It will take a month or two
for the U.S. Agriculture Department to decide whether to buy
more pork to prop up the money-losing hog industry, Deputy
Agriculture Undersecretary Michael Scuse said on Thursday.
The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) wants the
government to buy at least $50 million of pork products to use
for government food assistance programs.
Hog producers have lost, on average, nearly $23 for each
hog marketed since September 2009, "and things look bleak going
forward," said NPPC president Don Butler at House Agriculture
Scuse told the subcommittee losses "are expected to
moderate from now through 2010 as demand increases and hog
"The department continues to evaluate pork market
conditions and, if justified, (USDA) will initiate additional
surplus removal purchases this fiscal year," Scuse said.
USDA spent $164.6 million to buy 100 million lbs of pork
during fiscal 2009, ending on Sept. 30, mostly for donation to
food banks. It was double the total for fiscal 2008 and
included a $30 million purchase announced on Sept. 3 to bolster
Scuse told reporters "it could be in the next month, it
could be within the next two months" when the USDA's
Agricultural Marketing Service completes an analysis of
proposals to buy more pork.
Up to $250 million is available in so-called Section 32
funds, raised by customs receipts, to assist unsubsidized U.S.
farm products, such as pork.
During the subcommittee hearing, pork producers, industry
experts and meatpacker Seaboard Foods, a part of Seaboard Corp
(SEB.A), and industry experts said high feed costs were a
leading reason for losses by hog farmers. They also cited the
recession and loss of U.S. export markets due to the H1N1 flu
(Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Marguerita Choy)