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Produce industry requests billions in relief from Congress

On March 21, the United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458 sent letters to the Secretary of Agricultural and Congressional leaders requesting federal help as produce companies struggle during the COVID-19 economic crisis.

Among many specific sector relief requests, United Fresh urges Congress to:

-Establish a $5 billion fund that would be utilized to address claims filed by food service distributors who have outstanding expenditures to grower-shippers. Based on submission and verification of these claims by food service distributors the fund would allow USDA to reimburse grower-shippers directly based on these approved claims.

-Immediately make an additional $1 billion available under DoD Fresh and USDA Vendor Program to help meet the needs of schools and all emergency feeding sites that are experiencing increased demand. Notably, DoD Fresh prime vendors and fresh produce vendors are primarily small businesses that face a unique set of challenges when disruption hits. We urge Congress and USDA to take advantage of the opportunity to utilize this existing supply chain capability to meet the needs of schools, food banks, and other emergency feeding sites that are scrambling to meet the unprecedented needs of their communities – while ensuring these businesses can continue to provide employment for their workers and be in business when schools return.

-Provide $225 million funding for the Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to accommodate a temporary increase to the cash-value voucher benefits.

Robert Guenther, senior vice president, public policy for United Fresh, said March 24 that the produce industry’s request has been well received, and he’s optimistic funding will get in a bill that heads to the president as soon as today.

He said funding could be accessed via the Commodity Credit Corporation within USDA, which would provide billions in loans to help recover from COVID-19 business losses.

He said he suspects the Trump Administration is already working on how to get relief to businesses when Congress passes the first stimulus because many produce companies will need help quickly to stay in business.

Read the letters here:

Read United Fresh’s letter to USDA here.
Read United Fresh’s letter to Congress here.

 

 

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services