DES MOINES, IOWA — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is committed to increasing federal purchases of surplus agricultural commodities, he said on Aug. 19, relays The Associated Press. The former Iowa governor who was speaking to farmers at the Iowa State Fair said commodity purchases are among the most effective ways to help rural economies.

"This is probably the most direct stimulus you can get in terms of its ability to get into the economy quickly," Mr. Vilsack said.

Buying pork products is one example of how the government is helping producers, Mr. Vilsack said. Those purchases came after Iowa Gov. Chet Culver and the governors of eight other pork-producing states sent a letter earlier this month requesting federal help for the U.S. pork industry. The industry is struggling with soaring feed prices and a drop in demand blamed on the H1N1 flu that was — and continues to be — erroneously called "swine flu" by the media. The latter act has led to dozens of nations banning or reducing U.S. pork imports.

The governors urged the federal government to expand its purchase of pork for various nutrition programs to prop up prices.

"We are cognizant of the need for help," Mr. Vilsack said. "We purchased about $117 million of pork through various commodity programs, about 72 million lbs."

U.S.D.A. has used virtually all the money it's been given, and would support efforts to expand the purchase programs, Mr. Vilsack said. He added the agency was working with other countries to end import restrictions, noting success with Russia and some other countries.