The prolonged Midwest drought has driven up feed costs for livestock farmers… (Seth Perlman, AP )
The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in a bid to help drought-stricken farmers, announced it would buy up to $170 million worth of meat from affected livestock producers.
The prolonged Midwest drought has driven up feed costs for livestock farmers in affected areas, and the purchase of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish will provide some relief, the USDA said in a statement.
Many farmers had been selling livestock as they struggled to feed their herds and flocks, creating a temporary surplus of meat and lowering prices.
The government purchases will assist "producers who are currently struggling due to the challenging market conditions and the high cost of feed resulting from the widespread drought," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak said in a statement Monday.
The move will allow the agency to buy up to $100 million in pork products, $10 million in catfish, $50 million in chicken and $10 million in lamb products.
The meat will go toward several of the USDA's federal food nutrition assistance programs, such as the National School Lunch Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
The announcement follows previous actions by the USDA that allowed drought-affected farmers to secure expedited low-interest emergency loans.
The drought affecting the country's midsection has ruined half of the nation's corn crop and pushed corn futures to record levels. The drought, the worst in more than two decades, is expected to drive up food costs for consumers this fall and into early next year.
Farmers have been lobbying Congress to pass a 2012 Farm Bill, which is working its way through the House of Representatives. The current farm bill is set to expire in a few weeks, and farmers want a security net in place before planning for next year.