Produce groups make new request to USDA
More than 70 produce organizations sent Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue a letter on Monday stating their priorities following passage of the coronavirus relief bill that provides aid to fruit and vegetable producers.
“We’re united in our focus on pushing funding into the industry that prevents bankruptcies, rather than waiting for business failures to collect from assets,” said United Fresh Produce Association President and CEO Tom Stenzel.
In the letter, the produce organizations said the groups agreed:
▪ USDA should move to aggregate all data on losses by PACA 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.
▪ 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.
Stenzel also noted that USDA has updated its frequently asked questions page about the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.