Produce industry sends USDA market stabilization proposal
The United Fresh Produce Association and other industry groups sent the Agriculture Department on Tuesday what United Fresh calls “a comprehensive Produce Market Stabilization Program to immediately support critical financial needs in the produce supply chain” hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our industry has come together to support a consensus proposal to USDA, and Congress has come together to let our national decision-makers know how important this is across the country and every sector of our business,” United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel said in a news release.
Stenzel was referring to a letter that Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and other House members sent to USDA earlier Tuesday asking for help for the industry.
“The first step was encouraging Congress to pass the CARES Act devoting $2 trillion to the economy, and some $9.5 billion specifically carved out for fruits and vegetables, livestock, dairy and local food systems. Now comes this urgent proposal with a roadmap of how USDA can support our industry immediately. Next will come deep discussions and analysis within USDA in channeling resources to multiple interests. And eventually, we believe there will have to be continuing additional financial relief from Congress if our economy is going to be able to pull out of this crisis and grow again,” Stenzel said.
In an email message to members, Stenzel said, “Ours is not a supply chain that can pause – when we harvest today, that product starts a journey that ends up being consumed usually in just a couple weeks. But disruptions to demand at the end of that journey create financial impact everywhere along the chain from field to table. Whether it’s lost inventory along the supply chain or crops left in the field, the impact is shared. And that’s to say nothing about future lost sales.
“So the proposal to USDA with 85 different produce organizations signed on is nothing less than amazing. Rather than each group fighting for its own, we’ve forged a consensus that I can assure you is our best chance for real relief. We have to fight for this together as an industry, as every other food and agriculture sector is facing its own challenges and they have a seat at the table, too. There is still a long and steep road ahead.”
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