The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) has announced a plan to support dairy, pork and poultry producers, while providing much-needed nutritional assistance to hungry Americans facing economic hardship.

“Each and every day we watch as producers in our states go out of business. The current oversupply in the marketplace is causing dairy, pork and poultry producers to accumulate debt as never before,” reports NASDA President Ed Kee. “I am pleased we came together as a national organization to offer a solution to assist our producers. At the same time, our plan will provide vital aid to those Americans greatly affected by the economic downturn.”

NASDA’s bold “Meat the Need” proposal would take extra inventories off the market, while providing nutritious, protein-rich food to an increasing number of needy people. Since July, nearly 36 million people are participating in the nation’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a jump of 23% from just a year ago.

The NASDA plan would involve a tiered-purchase program for dairy and pork products and a one-time purchase of 100 million pounds of turkey products.

For dairy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would purchase 75 million pounds of cheese and additional dairy products done in three equal stages over a 120-day period, or until the target milk price of $16/cwt (cost of production) is met.

For pork, USDA would purchase cold storage inventories of pork over a 180-day period or until a target price of $49/cwt was reached. Each tier would include 100 million pounds of pork products.

“To ensure these products reach those who truly need them, the aid will be distributed through food assistance programs, which could include food banks, the school lunch program and a SNAP-PLUS program, as well as foreign military food assistance in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq,” says Steve Troxler, North Carolina commissioner of agriculture. “Under SNAP-PLUS, an additional allotment to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), at an amount to be determined, would be allocated for beneficiaries of the program to purchase meat and dairy products at private grocers. Using the system currently utilized across the nation, participants would be given separate electronic benefits transfer cards to spend solely on these products.”

NASDA is urging congressional leaders and administration officials to take the Meat the Need proposal into consideration to improve the lives of millions of Americans.