The USDA is working to prevent food loss by moving food that had been destroyed or plowed under in the field to people who need it, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Newsmax TV on Monday.
Perdue's appearance on "Spicer & Co." comes amid reports on the show last week that one dairy farmer who had more milk orders than he could fill during the COVID-19 outbreak while another was forced to dump his milk for lack of a buyer.
"We've got two parallel tracks of production, processing and distribution in this country," Purdue told hosts Sean Spicer and Lindsay Keith. One, he noted, serves institutional market restaurants: schools colleges and the like.The other serves and packages for the consumer market.
"What this has brought vividly to the forefront is, in America we consume about half of our food outside the home," Purdue said. "And the processing and production that has been going to that institutional market has been shut off just like a crash on interstate, two lanes are down, and there's backup."
USDA's $19 billion program is attempting to "relocate this dislocation," Perdue explained so that food currently going to waste gets to food banks and others in need.
The program is making $16 billion in direct payments to farmers and ranchers for losses incurred in addition to $100 million a month each to buy produce, dairy and meat for the food program.
Perdue called the shutdown of meat processing plants due to multiple workers falling ill, and some dying with coronavirus "the real challenge." The meat industry is very integrated and run as a just-in-time process, so when the processing plants shut down, it backs up the meat suppliers.
"You have sows that are bred to produce a certain period of time, those pigs are birthed and they're weened, then they're fed and then we got to go to market," he explained. "There's not a holding pen once you're ready to go to market. … When there's a break in that chain ... that when the backup can occur and really bad things happen then."
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