In an interview on Wednesday, U.S. Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue stated that the Trump Administration plans to purchase milk, meat, and other protein sources from farmers to offset the impact of the coronavirus. Farmers across the country are concerned that their products will not make it to their respective markets due to the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
Reuters reported on Monday that “The Department of Agriculture will spend up to $15.5 billion in the initial phase of its plan to bolster the nation’s food supply chain against the impacts of the outbreak, the first big push to ensure the pandemic doesn’t trigger consumer food shortages.”
Perdue told Fox Business Network in an interview on Wednesday, “We want to have direct payments to farmers, but more importantly we want to purchase as much of this milk or other protein products, hams and pork products, and move them to where they can be utilized in our food banks and possibly even international humanitarian aid,”
“We worked as expeditiously as we could to get milk where it’s needed, obviously in our retail stores, so that’s what’s happening when you see milk being dumped,” Perdue said. “It’s the processors not able to convert their lines into consumer-type packaging.”
In the past two weeks, several beef and pork packing plants have also shut down as workers have tested positive for the coronavirus. This week, Smithfield Foods announced that its Sioux Falls, SD facility will remain closed until further notice after it was revealed that hundreds of workers there have tested positive for COVID-19.
In response, the National Pork Producer Council called for, “Over $1 billion in pork purchases by the USDA to clear out a backed-up meat supply, supplementing agency food bank programs facing increased demand due to rising unemployment. These purchases should accommodate pork products packaged for restaurants and other segments of the food services market.”
The USDA has not announced specifics on how the aid will be divided, but hopefully that will come soon.