U.S.: $2.7B in financial support announced for fruit and veg amid "massive economic damage"
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced some US$2.7bn in financial support targeted to the fruit and vegetable industry in response to the losses from the Covid-19 emergency
The funding comes as part of a US$19bn Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program announced by President Trump and USDA Secretary Perdue on April 17.
The funds for the fruit and vegetable industry is divided with US$2.1bn allocated for direct payment to growers, and US$100m per month for the next six months in produce purchases.
“From the moment that the foodservice channel was shut down, we’ve worked hard with our members and allied produce associations across the country to formulate a plan for the government to help those who have been hit the hardest,” said Tom Stenzel, president & CEO of United Fresh.
“Working together with the co-chairs of the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance – Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA), National Potato Council (NPC), and Western Growers (WG) – we have collectively developed specific proposals supported by the broad fruit and vegetable industry to outline our needs to USDA and the Administration.”
Mike Joyner, president of the FFVA, said the damage to Florida producers of fresh fruits and vegetables has been "swift, staggering and devastating".
“Florida specialty crop growers have suffered more than $520 million in losses for this season," he said. "The programs announced today do not reach a level that would benefit Florida specialty crop producers at the level that is desperately needed. This is a first step, but much more is needed to ensure that a key driver of Florida’s damaged economy can return to strength.”
Kam Quarles, CEO of FFVA said the U.S. potato industry is US$4 billion annually with 60% of that total involving food service.
“Potato growers appreciate Secretary Perdue’s rapid action intended to stabilize family farms whose survival is threatened due to the mandated food service shutdown," he said.
The funding announcement is a "down payment on those efforts that will require additional resources and flexibility to deliver the necessary relief for our great potato industry", he said.
Dave Puglia, CEO of WG said farmers have suffered "massive economic damage", triggered by the nearly complete shutdown of the food service sector.
“This crisis threatens to put thousands of farmers and associated companies out of business," he said.
"The relief package announced today by President Trump and Secretary Perdue provides a very limited and conditioned first injection of $2.7 billion in financial assistance for the fresh produce industry until the economy regains its footing. Clearly, far more will be needed with more reasonable limits.”