Despite what you may have seen on the Drudge Report website this morning, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack wants to ensure Americans that his department did not spend $1.2 million for two pounds of sliced ham.
AÂ series of alarmist headlines posted at the top of the Drudge Report home pageÂ lists details on some of the purchasesÂ Agriculture has made through the American Recovery andÂ ReinvestmentÂ Act. The headlines, which link to summaries of contracts on the Recovery.gov website, seem to suggest that Agriculture is wasting stimulus money on groceries — and worse, getting overcharged.
The headlines indicate that Agriculture awarded contracts of nearly $16.8 million for canned pork, $1.6 million for mozzarella cheese and $1.2 million for two pounds of frozen sliced ham.
In response, Vilsack issued a statement this morning explaining that the purchases are for large amounts of food itemsÂ being delivered to food banks, soup kitchens and food pantries to help feed those who have been hardest hit by the economic recession. Agriculture received $100 million through the Recovery Act for the purchases.
The references to ‘2 pound frozen ham sliced’ are to the sizes of the packaging. Press reports suggesting that the Recovery Act spent $1.191 million to buy ‘2 pounds of ham’ are wrong. In fact, the contract in question purchased 760,000 pounds of ham for $1.191m, at a cost of approximately $1.50 per pound. In terms of the dairy purchase referenced, USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) purchased 837,936 pounds of mozzarella cheese and 4,039,200 pounds of processed cheese.
Vilsack goes on to say that the purchases do provide a boost to the economy, by helping farmers and ranchers who produce the food, food retailers and those working for manufacturing and transportation companies.