Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey has joined state agriculture officials from across the nation in offering the federal government a new proposal, called "Meat the Need," to help the nation's embattled dairy, pork and turkey farmers.
"Pork and dairy farmers in Iowa and other states are hurting financially, and this proposal is a way to support them during this difficult time and to get nutritious and wholesome food products to needy families," says Northey. "Right now these farmers are losing money on every gallon of milk they produce and every pound of pork they raise--and that is unsustainable."
The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture put forward the plan as a means to take extra dairy and pork supplies off the market and bring up prices paid to producers. The commodities will then be available through a supplemental food assistance program to people who could not otherwise afford them.
Make surplus milk and meat available to needy families
"Meat the Need" calls for the federal government to purchase up to three installments of 75 million pounds of cheese and other dairy products over 120 days and up to three installments of 100 million pounds of pork products over 180 days. If the target price of $16 per hundredweight of milk and 49 cents per pound of pork, which is the average cost of production for each product, is reached before the second or third installment, the purchases would stop.
The plan also includes of a one-time purchase of 100 million pounds of turkey. The purchased meat and dairy products would be distributed to food banks, school lunch programs and a new SNAP-PLUS program, as well as into foreign military food assistance. The SNAP-PLUS program would allow USDA to increase allocations to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and require SNAP beneficiaries to spend the new allocations on meat and dairy products only. Participants would be given separate electronic benefits transfer cards to purchase the products.
Food products would be paid for by unspent federal stimulus dollars
The initiative is projected to cost between $2 billion and $3 billion and the proposal calls for the funding to come from unspent stimulus dollars.
"I worry that if something isn't done quickly to help these farmers we could lose a significant number of dairy and pork producers, which could hurt our economy," says Northey. "A recent study shows that 1 in 6 jobs in Iowa is related to agriculture, so the potential economic impact of these ongoing financial losses reaches far beyond the farmers who are raising these animals."
NASDA is comprised of the commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture from the 50 states.