North Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler and his counterparts across the country have offered the federal government a new proposal to help struggling dairy, pork and poultry farmers.

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) has put forward a plan to take extra dairy, pork and poultry supplies off the market, stabilizing prices paid to producers while making more protein-rich foods available to food banks, school lunch programs and other food assistance programs, Troxler said. The proposal grew out of discussions between Troxler and his colleagues before and during NASDA’s annual meeting in Alabama. It is designed to use money previously authorized by Congress.

The proposal, known as “Meat the Need,” calls for the federal government to purchase cheese and other dairy products in up to three installments of 75 million pounds each over 120 days.

If the target price of $16 per hundredweight of milk — the cost of production — is reached before the second or third installment, the purchases would stop, Troxler said. Likewise, the government would purchase up to three installments of 100 million pounds of pork products over 180 days until a target price of 49 cents per pound — the average cost of production — is reached. The plan also includes a one-time purchase of 100 million pounds of turkey.

“This is a bold solution that would allow the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase allocations to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and beneficiaries would spend the new allocations on meat and possibly dairy products,” Troxler said. “These products would be available at grocery stores, and participants would be given separate electronic benefits transfer cards to purchase the products.”

Troxler said major action is needed quickly. “Dairy farmers across the country are suffering mightily,” he said. “Bankruptcies and foreclosures are occurring at an alarming rate.”

USDA has been buying pork, but not nearly enough to do anything about the prices farmers receive, he said.

“‘Meat the Need’ provides the impact the dairy and pork industries need,” Troxler said. “It is fiscally sound and is flexible enough to respond to changing market conditions.”

NASDA is composed of the commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture from the 50 states and Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands.