September 30, 2009

Ag Officials Propose Comprehensive Plan for Dairy & Pork Producers

Missouri's Director of Agriculture Dr. Jon Hagler has joined other leading agriculture officials from across the U.S. in proposing a national agriculture rescue plan called "Meat the Need" to immediately help the nation's dairy, pork and poultry industries that have been adversely affected by economic downturns. Director Hagler returned last week from the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) Conference where agriculture directors, secretaries and commissioners met for four days discussing a plan to overcome the economic crisis that so many farmers are facing in Missouri and across the U.S. The "Meat the Need" plan, proposed by Director Hagler and other NASDA members, would not only take extra dairy and pork supplies off of the market but would provide low income families with more dairy and protein.

"Every day a call or a letter comes to my desk from another Missouri farm family running the risk of losing everything they have. These families are clearly facing dire circumstances where, over a sustained period of time, prices are not meeting the cost of production," said Director Hagler. "‘Meat the Need' is a vital first step to help keep these farmers from losing their farms and their livelihoods. We will continue to work with folks in the agricultural industry in Missouri and across the U.S. as well as our elected leaders in Washington D.C. to find common sense approaches to help all sectors of agriculture."

"Meat the Need" calls for the federal government to purchase cheese and other dairy products in up to three installments of 75 million pounds each over 120 days. If the target price of $16 per hundredweight of milk, the average cost of production for milk producers, is reached before the second or third installment, the purchases would stop. Likewise, the federal government would purchase up to three installments of 100 million pounds of pork products over 180 days until the target price of 49 cents per pound is reached. The plan also includes a one-time purchase of 100 million pounds of turkey.

The purchased dairy, pork and poultry products would be distributed to food banks, school lunch programs, foreign military food assistance programs and through a SNAP-PLUS program. The SNAP-PLUS component would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase allocations to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and require SNAP recipients to spend the new allocations only on meat and dairy products available through their local commercial grocers. Participants in the program would use separate electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards dedicated to the ‘Meat the Need' proposal to purchase the meat and dairy products.

"When food is produced locally, consumers get a high quality product at a low cost. We all have a stake in preserving agricultural production in Missouri," said Director Hagler. "The agricultural industry is in desperate need of immediate assistance and we hope everyone will pitch in to support this important ‘Meat the Need' initiative."