Dozens of produce organizations urge USDA to develop market stabilization plan

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Dozens of produce organizations urge USDA to develop market stabilization plan

Dozens of U.S. fruit and vegetable organizations have signed a letter to USDA Secretary Perdue urging him to swiftly develop a market stabilization plan for the industry.

The letter comes as the industry suffers from economic consequences related to the Covid-19 pandemic, which United Fresh previously estimated would cost it at least US$5bn plus US$1bn per week in lost sales.

"On behalf of the highly perishable fresh produce supply chain, we urge USDA to take swift action in developing a market stabilization plan for the industry to meet the legislative intent of the CARES [Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security] Act passed by the Senate and hopefully soon to be passed by the House," the letter states.

"As Congress specified, this support is desperately needed by the fruit and vegetable sector that was devastated by the shutdown of the foodservice supply chain.

"As you know, a bi-partisan group of House members wrote you earlier this week asking USDA to target relief for our industry so Congressional intent seems quite clear."

The letter was signed by United Fresh Produce Association president and CEO Tom Stenzel, National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles, Western Growers president and CEO Dave Puglia, and Florida Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association president Michael Joyner, and endorsed by the Produce Marketing Association and dozens of other industry organizations. 

In the letter, the groups request that as the USDA develops specific programs under this provision of the legislation, it works together with the industry on the following:

  • USDA should move to aggregate all data on losses by PACA licensees due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • USDA should immediately act to develop a disbursement plan to pay grower-shippers for debts identified from PACA licensees and customers along with other contractual obligations that cannot be repaid due to the collapse of the foodservice sector.
  • Development of a plan for USDA to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables for federal feeding programs. In so doing USDA should immediately “step into the shoes” of schools that have cancelled contracts.
  • As the industry seeks to quantify the full international trade impacts of this global crisis, USDA should be
    prepared to create a program that assists producers with respect to lost international markets.
  • Use of all resources at USDA’s discretion, including carryover funds from the previous fiscal year, must be part of the solution to address the immediate needs of the specialty crop industry.

"These are our industry’s initial needs and ideas to help reduce the financial devastation from this crisis," the letter states.

"While this crisis continues to evolve, so might solutions that are warranted for consideration. The fresh produce industry stands ready to work with you and the USDA team to implement an effective and aggressive stabilization program.

"We thank you for your swift attention on these matters to ensure that our businesses can remain open to keep Americans fed during, and after, this national emergency."


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