May 12, 2020
USDA approves $1.2 billion in contracts for food purchases

The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved $1.2 billion in contracts on May 8 to support U.S. producers and communities in need through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program, including $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables. Purchases previously scheduled for a longer time frame are now to be delivered starting May 15 through June 30.

National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles leads a press conference in front of the Capitol on Feb. 26, 2020. Photo: Bill Schaefer Photography

“We’re pleased to see the Administration recognize the importance of rapid action intended to clear the oversupply of potato and other products in the food pipeline,” said NPC CEO Kam Quarles.

“Accelerating this spending schedule is exactly the right action to get food to those in need and support family farmers who are in desperate need of relief. We strongly support USDA’s intent of frontloading purchases to benefit growers and families alike.”

In addition, the food box program includes $317 million for a variety of dairy products, $258 million for meat products, and $175 million for a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. Suppliers will package these products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) may elect to extend the period of performance of the contracts, via option periods, dependent upon program success and available remaining funds, up to $3 billion.

Additional information on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program is available here.

Work starting on next stimulus package

House Democrats are considering measures to resupply and revamp small business aid programs as part of a new economic relief package expected to be released in the coming days. The Paycheck Protection Program, initially funded $350 billion in relief, was recently replenished with $320 billion. To date, around half of that funding has been allocated. The House has floated proposals that would provide another $660 billion in PPP funding, with a $240 billion set aside for businesses with fewer than 10 employees and $180 billion for businesses with 10-49 employees.
RJ Andrus of Idaho Falls, Idaho, and Idahoan Foods, speaks during the 2019 National Potato Council summer meetings in Wisconsin.

House and Senate Republicans likewise signaled support for easing loan forgiveness requirements for Paycheck Protection Program loans. Bipartisan plans have also been floated to give businesses more time to spend the funds.

NPC and specialty crop organizations are in conversations with House leadership over which agriculture funding programs will be included in the relief package. “We want to ensure that any bill capable of making it to the President’s desk will include meaningful provisions to support the potato industry,” said RJ Andrus, NPC’s Vice President of Legislative and Government Affairs.

Specialty crop producers highlight worker safety measures

NPC and potato organizations from across the country joined a national coalition of specialty crop producers on a letter to Congress highlighting the extraordinary measures agricultural employers are taking to protect their workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Noting the actions taken to institute worker safety protocols, the groups write, “These steps reflect our continued commitment to the safety and wellbeing of our employees, the safety of the products they harvest, and the health of all Americans who must continue to consume healthy foods as part of our public health fight back against this virus. Without a safe and healthy work force, we could not continue to meet that challenge.”

As future rounds of COVID-19 pandemic legislation are debated, the coalition letter urges congressional leaders to acknowledge the widespread employee protection protocols already in place on American farms and ranches, and to provide additional support to help agricultural employers meet the needs of their employees.

Click here to read the full letter.

— From the National Potato Council

75 Applewood Dr. Ste. A
P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345


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