President Obama announced that the federal government would buy up to $170 million worth of meat and poultry to aid farmers and ranchers struggling with a devastating drought this summer.
The purchase of as much as $100 million of pork, $50 million of chicken, and $10 million each of lamb and catfish comes on top of $30 million in assistance announced last week. Additionally, the Department of Defense said it would review its meat purchases to see if they can be accelerated. The agency buys about 94 million pounds of beef, 64 million pounds of pork and 500,000 pounds of lamb annually.
During his announcement, the president repeated his call for Congress to pass a farm bill that includes short-term relief measures for the drought-stricken agriculture industry. Although the drought is a localized issue, there is vulnerability for Republicans in farm states because the GOP-controlled House failed to pass its own farm bill before the August recess.
Bulk government meat purchases are not without precedent. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans to buy as much as $40 million of chicken products for federal nutrition programs. In 2009, the government said it would spend about $105 million in supplemental pork purchases partly to help hog producers suffering from a slump in prices caused by outbreaks of the H1N1 virus, known as swine flu.