Obama Announces Federal Aid For Drought-Stricken Agriculture Industry

Obama meets with members of the White House Rural Council to discuss ongoing efforts in response to the drought. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

President Barack Obama moved to stem the impact of the worst drought in 50 years as he directed the department of agriculture to buy up to $170m of pork, lamb, chicken and catfish.

The move comes as the G20 group of countries are reportedly planning their response to drought and soaring food prices around the world. The US is the world’s largest exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat and the drought has already sent prices to record levels.

Obama made the announcement on Monday at the start of his three-day trip to Iowa, a swing state the Democrats hope to win in this November’s election. The state that has been hit hard by a drought that last week drove US corn prices to an all-time high.

The farming crisis is emerging as a key battleground in the 2012 election. The president is trying to pass a farm bill through Congress that he claims will aid farmers but has been stalled by Republicans over what they see as excessive costs.

Pressure for action intensified last week as the US department of agriculture (USDA) warned food prices were set to soar. USDA said the worst drought in 50 years had forced farmers to abandon corn fields covering an area larger area than Belgium and Luxembourg combined. The department slashed its forecasts for key crops including corn and soybeans and lowered production forecast for eggs, milk and pork. Blaming “extreme and dryness” in the Central Plains and the Corn Belt, the USDA said it now expects this year’s corn harvest to be the lowest since 1995-1996.

The food Obama intends the purchase will go toward “food nutrition assistance” programmes, like food banks. Obama also intends to push the department of defense to speed up purchases and said it was a good time to buy “while prices are low, and freeze it for later”.

Read more:  theguardian

Conversations