Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN), along with 22 other U.S. senators, are asking the Agriculture Department for immediate aid for the pork industry.

In a letter Thursday to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the senators cited the emergence of the novel H1N1 virus, rising input costs and the global recession as major factors that contributed to the economic downturn. Since September 2007, the U.S. pork industry has lost $4.6 billion in equity, with pork producers losing an average of more than $21 on every hog marketed.

“Alarmingly low pork prices are putting a strain on an industry that is vital to our state’s economy,” Klobuchar says. “The pork industry is facing obstacles outside their control, which are driving down prices. It is imperative that we act quickly and give the pork producers the aid they need to get back on their feet.”

Minnesota is the third-largest pork-producing state with 2,500 farms and more than 20,000 jobs in hog production and pork processing.

Specifically, the letter requests:

--Purchase of an additional $100 million of pork for various federal food programs under Section 32 authority;

--Work with appropriate federal agencies to help address swine disease surveillance on farms, related diagnostic and vaccine development and swine industry support; and

--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 the 2009 H1N1 virus.

The senators also asked Vilsack to continue to review other USDA programs for additional opportunities for assistance to the U.S. pork industry.