WASHINGTON, April 9 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he has directed his agriculture secretary to "expedite help" to American farmers hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I expect Secretary (Sonny) Purdue to use all of the funds and authorities at his disposal to make sure that our food supply is stable, strong, and safe," Trump tweeted Thursday night, adding he wanted to "expedite help to our farmers, especially to the smaller farmers who are hurting right now".
Also on twitter, Perdue said that his department "is using all financial resources we have been given to develop a program that will include direct payments to farmers & ranchers hurt by COVID-19 & other procurement methods to help solidify the supply chain from producers to consumers."
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ripple across the country, crop and livestock prices have fallen to levels that threaten the livelihoods of many U.S. farmers and ranchers, according to recent analysis by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF).
"The drop in demand is pushing the prices farmers would get paid for their crops to lows that may make it very difficult for them to justify putting another crop in the ground this spring," John Newton, chief economist of the AFBF, said Tuesday in a statement.
"I stand by my assurance that our food supply remains strong, but America will have fewer farms and ranches supplying it unless USDA acts quickly to deliver aid and our economy is released from the grips of this pandemic soon," echoed AFBF president Zippy Duvall.
Last month, 48 agriculture groups, including the AFBF, had called on Congress to expand the United States Department of Agriculture's borrowing authority to assist farmers and ranchers facing serious cash flow challenges during the coronavirus pandemic.
"Millions of producers will need help with cash flow given the rapid and unanticipated decline in commodity prices, the likely closures of ethanol processing plants, the effective elimination of direct-to-consumer sales and decline in full-service restaurant and school meal demand," the groups wrote in a letter to congressional leaders.