Members of the U.S. Congress have urged the USDA to lend assistance to the nation’s pork producers to help them out of a two-year economic crisis, according to the National Pork Producers Council.

In separate letters sent to Tom Vilsack, USDA Secretary, 24 senators and 63 representatives have asked that USDA take the following actions to provide “much-needed emergency relief” to the U.S. pork industry:

• Purchase $100 million of pork with funds from the Section 32 program, which uses customs receipts to buy non-price-supported commodities for federal food-assistance programs.

• Collaborate with other federal agencies to help address swine disease surveillance on farms, related diagnostic and vaccine development and swine industry support.

• 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 H1N1.

The congressional efforts, led by Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) in the Senate and by Tim Walz (D-Minn.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) in the House, were made to help pork producers survive losses averaging $22.50 per hog since September 2007.

NPPC estimates that over the past two years, the U.S. pork industry has lost more than $5 billion, and producers have lost more than 65 percent of the equity in their operations.

“U.S. pork producers are grateful to the members of Congress for seeking assistance for our industry,” said NPPC President Don Butler. They recognize that the U.S. pork industry is a vital part of the U.S. economy, providing hundreds of thousands of mostly rural jobs and providing consumers around the world with a safe, nutritious product.”

Source: NPPC