Yesterday, WG joined a coalition of more than 80 produce organizations from across the country in urging Secretary Sonny Perdue to establish a $5 billion Produce Market Stabilization Fund from the monies allocated to USDA in the recently-enacted CARES Act.
The letter to Secretary Perdue notes that: “Almost overnight, critical movement and economic activity in the fresh produce supply chain vanished as restaurants, food establishments, hospitality businesses and schools were shuttered, and the retail industry struggles to adjust… The entire fresh produce industry supply chain is reeling from this sudden and immediate shut down of an estimated 40% of all produce consumed in America.”
In response, the produce industry has proposed $5 billion for the following programs:
- COVID-19 Stabilization Program for Growers: This program would be provided to growers who can identify economic losses related to COVID-19 emergency declaration through a defined covered period (March 1, 2020, through June 30, 2020).
- COVID-19 Stabilization Program for PACA Licensed Produce Dealers: Verified losses by USDA would be used by banks to help assure continued lending, and losses would be covered through the fund.
- Fresh Produce Purchase and Distribution Program: Coupled with existing USDA spending authority, including, but not limited to section 32, would be used to prioritize nutrient-dense fresh fruits and vegetables in feeding programs.
Additionally, the proposal acknowledges the need for Ongoing Assessment of COVID-19 Economic Impact, as there will likely be a need to expand the parameters of the COVID-19 response to address the full scope of costs that this pandemic has and will continue to impose on the produce supply chain, which will extend beyond direct sales losses and not be fully quantifiable within the existing covered period.
Click here to read the full Produce Market Stabilization Program proposal.