The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) has urged the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help the US pork industry deal with the negative effects of H1N1 flu (“swine flu).

In a letter sent to the USDA yesterday (5 May), NPPC said that pork producers, who prior to the “outbreak” already were losing money, have seen losses accelerate to an average of US$17.69 per hog marketed as of 1 May. Total losses reached $7.2m a day between 24 April and 1 May.

“Given those loses and based on 1 May futures prices,” said NPPC president Don Butler, “a bad situation for pork producers has been exacerbated and could get worse unless the industry gets some relief.”

To help stem the losses US pork producers are incurring, NPPC has asked USDA secretary Tom Vilsack to implement a purchase programme for $50m of pork products to help boost cash hog prices.

Vilsack is also urging President Obama to work with US trading partners to remove all restrictions on exports of US pork and pork products and to maintain US pork export markets around the world.

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The letter also asked for the development of a comprehensive surveillance programme for swine diseases, which will provide an early warning for emerging diseases that affect human and animal health.

The NPPC told Vilsack it would identify and bring to his attention other actions USDA could take to assist the US pork industry during the current situation.