The US Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, announced last month plans to use an additional $30 million dollars to purchase pork in 2009 for federal food and nutrition assistance programs.
This announcement comes as the USDA has already spent some $151 million of Recovery Act (widely known as the “stimulus”) money to purchase pork products. To me there’s always a bit of irony when pork barrel money is spent to purchase actual pork, as is the case here. You can read the USDA Press Release here.
There’s theoretically nothing wrong with using taxpayer money to support pork producers who are struggling with a glut of supply and lagging demand, as well as slower sales due to the economic conditions in the US. But since a majority of pork producers in the US are huge CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), essentially your tax money is being used to bail out pork producers who are having a slow year.
In case you want to see for yourself the enormous decline in small pork producers and increase in the number of huge CAFO operations, you can review the Pork Board’s Website HERE (specifically Slide 10 – “US Marketings By Operation Size”). The graph and information is directly from the pork industry and shows the transformation of the pork industry from small family operation to mega-huge, environmentally devastating CAFO. Long gone are the days of the small farmer raising a handful or pigs (shown in the picture above).
Using stimulus money to assist farmers who are struggling during these hard economic times is one thing. Using stimulus money to pad the bottom line of huge pork producers who are having an off year is entirely different. Sadly, due to the lack of transparency in all aspects of the stimulus money divestment process, there’s really no way to discern where this money went, or where it will go.
$181 million dollars ($151 mill + $30 mill) might not be much money in the grand scheme of things, but think how far that money would go towards encouraging farmers to switch to organic growing methods, or sustainable farming practices, or subsidizing local school lunch programs to buy locally grown produce. It’s something to think about.