After a day with the president in Iowa, as well as a stop at the Iowa State Fair, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack spent some time with Southern Farm Network talking about some of the administration’s drought mitigation steps, particularly for livestock producers who are already feeling the pinch of rising feed prices. These steps followed Friday’s USDA report showing a significantly lower corn harvest in the Midwest than producers had hoped for when planting those crops:
“They were certainly not good compared to what we thought this crop would be when we first planted it in the spring. The corn crop however, if it meets the expected threshold of 10.8 billion bushels, which is what we now estimate, they would still be within the top ten corn crops in the history of the country.”
And while that’s an impressive number, Vilsack says, is it enough to go around?:
“We expect less feed, less biofuel production and less exports, which will help mitigate the impact of this, but there will still be a need to help these producers, particularly livestock producers.”
To assist livestock producers, Vilsack explains that USDA purchased meat products:
“The President instructed me to take a look at what we could do immediately and one thing we can do is to purchase product through USDA’s capacities for food banks and our school lunch programs. The President announced $100 million of pork products are being purchased by USDA along with $50 million in chicken, $10 million in lamb and $10 million in catfish.”
And Vilsack explains the pork purchases in particular are targeted to a special market:
“These pork purchases are initially focuses on sow meat which hasn’t had a particularly good market recently, but this should help to stabilize that market.”
The Carolinas being grain-deficit states were also hoping for a good Midwestern grain crop this year, in the hopes of returning to profitability for the first time in years.
Vilsack explains that he’s hopeful that a farm bill can be finished before the expiration of the 2008 bill on September 30th:
“That’s one of the reasons it’s so important for the Congress come back to work in September and finish its work on a farm bill because that would contain our revival of the disaster programs under the 2008 farm bill that would provide help and assistance in the form of direct cash assistance to livestock producers who lost the capacity to feed animals. It might allow them to keep their herds for longer periods. It’s a tough situation and its particularly tough if you liquidate and it’s very hard to get back in that business. So we are hopeful that Congress gets to work in September.”
Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.