The U.S. pork industry, battered by high feed prices and low hog prices, is now asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for help in weathering the current negative effects of the H1N1 Influenza A virus.

Pork producers were already losing money prior to the current flu outbreak, and USDA agreed on March 31 to an additional purchase of up to $25 million in pork and pork products for domestic food assistance programs.

The hybrid flu outbreak has accelerated losses to an average of $17.69 on each hog marketed as of May 1, with total losses reaching $7.2 million a day between April 24 and May 1, says the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).

“Given those losses and based on May 1 futures prices, a bad situation for pork producers has been exacerbated and could get worse unless the industry gets some relief,” points out NPPC President Don Butler in a letter to USDA.

To curb losses, NPPC has asked USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack to:

--Implement a USDA purchase program for $50 million of U.S. pork to help boost cash hog prices. Products can be used for federal emergency food programs, food pantries, senior/elderly programs, hunger programs and other non-commercial food channels.

--Urge President Obama to work with U.S. trading partners to remove all restrictions on exports of U.S. pork and pork products and to preserve U.S. pork export markets worldwide.

--Develop a comprehensive surveillance program for swine diseases that includes an early warning for emerging diseases that affect human and animal health. Mandatory premises and animal identification would be required for an effective surveillance program, according to NPPC.

--Work to keep open the border between the United States and Canada – in light of the report that a Canadian hog farm became infected with the H1N1 flu from a worker – to allow hog movements.

NPPC also told Vilsack it would identify other actions USDA could implement to assist the U.S. pork industry during this crisis.