WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate and House members have requested the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide assistance to U.S. pork producers to help them out of an economic crisis they’ve faced for two years. The congressional request was praised by the National Pork Producers Council (N.P.P.C.).

Twenty-four senators and 63 representatives asked in separate letters sent to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack that U.S.D.A. do the following to provide emergency relief to the U.S. pork industry:

  • Buy $100 million of pork with funds from the Section 32 program, which uses customs receipts to buy non-price-supported commodities for federal food-assistance programs.
  • Collaborate with other federal agencies to help address swine disease surveillance on farms, related diagnostic and vaccine development and swine industry support.
  • Work with the U.S. Trade Representative to open export markets to U.S. pork, particularly China, which continues to impose non-science-based restrictions on U.S. pork since the outbreak of H1N1.

Led by Al Franken, D-Minn., and Richard Burr, R-N.C., in the Senate, and by Tim Walz, D-Minn., and Steve King, R-Iowa, in the House, the congressional efforts were made to help pork producers deal with losses averaging $22.50 per hog since September 2007. During the past two years, the U.S. pork industry has lost more than $5 billion, and producers have lost more than 65% of the equity in their operations.

U.S. pork producers are grateful to the members of Congress for seeking assistance for our industry, said Don Butler, N.P.P.C. president. "We particularly applaud the efforts of Sens. Franken and Burr and Reps. Walz and King," he added. "They recognize the U.S. pork industry is a vital part of the U.S. economy, providing hundreds of thousands of mostly rural jobs and providing consumers around the world with a safe, nutritious product."

N.P.P.C. urged U.S.D.A. in mid-August to make three $50 million purchases of pork, using fiscal 2009, fiscal 2010 and Section 32 funds. U.S.D.A. agreed in early September to buy $30 million of pork, using fiscal 2009 funds.