Record USDA bonus purchase puts pork onto food-insecure tables

As of Jan. 28, more than $113 million in pork products, ranging from pork patties and pork taco filling to sliced ham and pork chops, has been delivered to food banks across the country.


Ann Hess, National Hog Farmer

Feb 08, 2019


Back in the spring of 1999, the National Pork Producers Council worked with the USDA to get a $50 million bonus purchase of pork on to the budget. This was on top of the $45 million to $55 million the USDA purchases in pork annually, and it was the largest bonus buy they had ever done.


Then came the 2018 trade wars with China, Canada and Mexico.


“If you think about this $558 million, which is 10 times the largest that has been done, it’s huge,” says Dallas Hockman, vice president of Industry Relations for the NPPC. “But it is very good because it ultimately gets protein — which is the No. 1 deficit for food banks — to needy people and at the same time it helps producers in the short-term. It also fits our overall We Care commitment because it is giving back to the community and working with the community.”


Of the $1.2 billion in commodities the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has purchased, pork is by far the largest. The protein accounts for 45% of the food purchase and distribution program that began in December 2018 and will last until December 2019. The program is one of three Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced back in July to aid farmers in response to trade damage from unjustified retaliation.


“We didn’t want to do something that would replace pork being sold some place else,” Hockman says. “That was the idea of this and because pork was the sharp point of the spear in these negotiations and suffering the biggest impact as it relates to the commodity side of the equation, that’s the reason we received the large amount we did.”


It’s also the first time the USDA has purchased pork just for food banks.


According to Michelle Book, president and CEO of Food Bank of Iowa, the state’s food insecurity rate is 11.5%...