Mar 31, 2020
Agriculture groups, including NPC, seeking coronavirus help from USDA

A coalition of agriculture groups is urging the U.S. Department of Agriculture to “take swift action” to help stabilize markets affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

The $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) stimulus package was passed by Congress last week. Agriculture groups are seeking further measures by the USDA, however, primarily because of decreased foodservice need due to coronavirus-related shutdowns.

Leaders from the United Fresh Produce Association, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association, National Potato Council and Western Growers signed a letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue on March 30 that included support from more than 70 other ag organizations.

The letter listed five primary requests:

  • “USDA should move to aggregate all data on losses by PACA (Perishables Agricultural Commodities Act) 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 canceled contracts.
  • “As we seek 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 is the actions the groups are asking the USDA to take now. The letter stated further action could be needed as the “crisis continues to evolve.” The complete letter can be found here.

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