Lima Ranch owner Jack Hamm looks over his dairy cows as they feed at Lima Ranch in Lodi, Calif. Thursday, April 9, 2020.

Jessica Christian | San Francisco Chronicle | Getty Images

The U.S. will start rolling out a program to purchase $3 billion of dairy, meat and produce from farmers and ranchers early next week, President Donald Trump said Saturday.

As the pandemic disrupts supply chains across the country, farmers have been forced to destroy their crops, dump milk and throw out perishable items that can’t be stored. Prices and demand for agricultural products have plummeted during national lockdown and farmers have been left with an oversupply of food they can’t sell. 

The president in a tweet said the $3 billion purchase is part of the “Farmers to Family Food Box,” but did not provide further details. 

An aerial drone view from a drone shows farm workers as they fill up bins in the back of a truck with zucchini on the Sam Accursio & Son’s Farm on April 1, 2020 in Florida City, Florida.

Joe Raedle | Getty Images

The president recently announced a $19 billion relief program called the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, which will provide $16 billion to farmers and ranchers and $3 billion in purchases of fresh produce, dairy products and meat for distribution at food banks. The USDA approved on Friday $1.2 billion in contracts to producers through the food box program. 

U.S. food banks that provide relief to millions of people are also losing employees and closing down during the pandemic.

Many Americans are preparing for a meat shortage after the virus shut down some of the country’s largest slaughterhouses. Trump has signed an executive order to keep meat-processing plants operating even as workers at those facilities fall ill. 

Some chicken processors dealing with staff shortages due to the virus have been forced to euthanize chickens. Plant closures across the country could result in the loss of millions of of animals including pigs, chickens and cattle. 

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