Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) intention to purchase up to $2 million of lamb products for federal food nutrition assistance programs, including food banks.
"This purchase will provide welcome assistance to thousands of families in these challenging economic times," said Vilsack. "It will also provide support to the lamb industry and the many small independent sheep growers that depend on the industry for their livelihood."
The announcement follows the request of Sen. Tim Johnson (S.D.) and that of 14 other senators who requested earlier this year that the agency purchase high-quality, high-protein American products to support food banks, which have seen a spike in demand during the economic downturn.
"I have been to many food banks across South Dakota and they have experienced a significant increase in demand over the last several years," said Johnson. "I am pleased that USDA will purchase high-protein lamb products raised by American farmers to help feed the many individuals who rely on food assistance as they try to get back on their feet."
The American Sheep Industry Association's Board of Directors approved requesting USDA's support at their annual meeting in January.
USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service purchases a variety of high-quality food products each year to support the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program. USDA also makes emergency food purchases for distribution to victims of natural disasters.