The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) Tuesday (Aug. 18) reiterated its request to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide assistance to help save the U.S. pork industry and thousands of jobs.

The pork industry is facing two years of losses totaling $4.5 billion, an average of more than $21 on each hog marketed.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, NPPC requested $250 million in financial aid and asked the agency to:

--Purchase immediately an additional $50 million of pork for various federal food programs – other than ones in USDA’s Section 32 program – using fiscal 2009 funds. Fiscal year 2009 ends Sept. 30. The funds would not come from USDA’s Section 32 program.

--Urge Congress to lift a spending cap on the Section 32 program and use $50 million of $300 million available to buy pork for the program. The program uses customs receipts to buy non-price-supported commodities for school lunch and other programs.

--Buy a minimum of $50 million of pork on Oct. 1 using fiscal year 2010 funds; fiscal year 2010 begins Oct. 1. The purchase would be in addition to USDA’s annual buy.

--Allocate $100 million of the $1 billion appropriated for addressing the H1N1 Flu Outbreak Virus for the swine industry. The funding would include $70 million for swine disease surveillance, $10 million for diagnostics and H1N1 vaccine development and $20 million for industry support.

--Work with the U.S. trade representative to open export markets to U.S. pork. China and other countries continue to impose artificial bans on U.S. pork due to the H1N1 flu.

--Examine the economic impact on the livestock industry of an expansion of corn-ethanol production and usage. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has proposed raising the cap on blending ethanol into gasoline to 15% from 10%.

“U.S. pork producers are in desperate straits right now, and they need a little help from USDA,” says NPPC President Don Butler. “The request NPPC has made not only will help pork producers and Americans who benefit from government feeding programs, but tens of thousands of mostly rural jobs supported by the U.S. pork industry.”

On Aug. 7, governors from nine states asked the federal government to help U.S. pork producers in the form of a supplemental $50 million purchase of pork and to lift the Section 32 spending cap to make additional purchases of pork.

A request by NPPC earlier this summer for $50 million in additional pork purchases was rebuffed by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack, who reportedly said funds had dried up until the start of fiscal year 2010 (Oct. 1).