Gillibrand asks USDA to study produce; United Fresh comments |

Gillibrand asks USDA to study produce; United Fresh comments

-The Hagstrom Report

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., last week asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to study the structure of the fruit and vegetable industry, but the United Fresh Produce Association issued a statement showing a distinct lack of enthusiasm for Gillibrand’s request.

In a letter addressed to “The Honorable George Ervin ‘Sonny’ Perdue III,” Gillibrand wrote that “persistent low prices paid to farmers have led to a loss of small family farms and a reliance on imports” and asked for “a comprehensive review of the produce industry, at the farm, middle market and retail levels.”

In a statement Monday, United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel said, “The fresh produce industry operates on extremely tight margins, at every stage from grower to wholesaler to retailer.”

“Our industry is the ultimate supply-and-demand economy, and our real goal must be to increase demand for fresh fruits and vegetables,” Stenzel said. “That’s the key to raising prices paid to farmers, allowing reinvestment for growth. Transparency in any supply chain is a good thing, and we always welcome USDA’s analysis of our markets.

“It’s important for each sector in our supply chain not to lose sight of our goal to grow fresh produce consumption, while fighting with one another over whose share of a dwindling pie is bigger.”