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The U.S. Department of Agriculture intends to make direct payments to farmers as part of a roughly $15 billion effort to protect the nation's food supply amid the coronavirus pandemic, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told FOX Business' Stuart Varney on Wednesday.
"We want to have direct payments to farmers, but more importantly ... we want to purchase as much of this milk or other protein products, hams and pork products, and move them to where they can be utilized in our food banks and possibly even international humanitarian aid," Perdue said.
Dairy farmers are dumping milk as prices crash due to the pandemic choking off most of the industry's usual customers. Pork producers are also worried about falling prices, and on Tuesday the National Pork Producers Council requested that the USDA make $1 billion in pork purchases.
"We worked as expeditiously as we could to get milk where it's needed, obviously in our retail stores, so that's what's happening when you see milk being dumped," Perdue said. "It's the processors not able to convert their lines into consumer-type packaging."
Total U.S. dairy demand has fallen by 12 to 15 percent since the COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Dairy Farmers of America.
About half of total demand comes via grocery store sales and the other half is derived from the food-services industry, which includes restaurants, hotels and airlines.