U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday announced a $19 billion relief program to help farmers cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic through a package that will include direct payment and mass purchases of produce, meat, and other products.
“These are great people, great Americans, never complain, never complain – they just do what they have to do,” Trump said while announcing the farm aid program, which he said will have $16 billion in direct payments.
U.S. Department of Agriculture in a statement said it will partner with regional and local distributors to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat.
The decision comes amid rising pressure from the U.S. farm lobby for government purchases as growers and ranchers struggle to get their goods to market because of disruptions caused by the pandemic, forcing some to throw out their supplies.
Reuters reported on Monday that the Department of Agriculture will spend up to $15.5 billion in the initial phase of its plan to bolster the nation’s food supply chain against the impacts of the outbreak, the first big push to ensure the pandemic does not trigger consumer food shortages.
In the United States, several beef and pork packing plants have shut down as workers fall ill or die from the virus. Smithfield Foods, for example, the world’s biggest pork processor, said on Sunday it will shut a U.S. plant indefinitely due to a rash of coronavirus cases among employees and warned the country was moving “perilously close to the edge” in supplies for grocers.