Washington, May 10 (IANS) The US will purchase $3 billion worth of dairy, meat and produce from farmers and ranchers starting early next week, President Donald Trump announced.
“The USA will be purchasing, from our farmers, ranchers & specialty crop growers, $3 billion worth of dairy, meat & produce for food lines & kitchens,” Trump tweeted on Saturday.
The President noted that the government purchase was part of the “Farmers to Family Food Box”, calling it “great news for all”, reports Xinhua news agency.
Demands for agricultural products have plummeted amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as widespread lockdowns since late March have disrupted supply chains across the nation, even forcing some farmers to destroy their products that can’t be stored.
Some of the country’s largest slaughterhouses have closed due to growing infections among workers at certain facilities, presenting additional challenges for farmers.
Trump has recently signed an executive order to keep meat-processing plants open, but it has drawn backlash from the country’s largest meatpacking union.
The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union on Friday announced its opposition to the re-opening of 14 meatpacking plants under the recent executive order, raising concerns about the serious safety issues at these facilities that put workers and the food supply at risk.
Meanwhile, farmers and ranchers have been devastated by the COVID-19 crisis, with year-on-year farm bankruptcies increasing 23 per cent, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Wisconsin was the hardest hit with 78 filings in the 12-month period, followed by Nebraska with 41 filings and Iowa at 37, the American Farm Bureau Federation noted.
More than 50 per cent of the filings were in the 13-state Midwest region, followed by 19 per cent in the Southeast.
Trump had recently announced a $19 billion- relief program to help farmers and ranchers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with $3 billion in purchases of fresh produce, dairy and meat for distribution at food banks.
The coronavirus food assistance program will also provide $16 billion in direct support based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted by the pandemic, according to the Department of Agriculture.