Members of Congress, Produce Industry Urge Immediate Financial Relief for Produce Supply Chain Damaged by COVID-19 Economic Impact
- by Melissa De Leon Chavez
WASHINGTON, DC -United Fresh Produce Association, The Produce Marketing Association, and a fleet of other fresh produce advocates, champions, and stalwarts have launched another initiative to help the industry and the market. This week, a number of industry partners presented a comprehensive Produce Market Stabilization Program to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which outlines how to address the critical financial needs in the supply chain and alleviate losses of upwards of $5 billion.
“There is a long road still ahead,” said United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel. “But this is a critical step—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...Most organizations represent specific sectors and members who are suffering, but we’ve set aside competitive interests to support a common approach that gets us the best chance of securing real relief for our industry.”
Within the letter, industry leaders outlined COVID-19 stabilization programs for growers and PACA-licensed produce dealers, as well as a fresh produce purchase and distribution program to prioritize fresh produce in feeding programs.
“Since the beginning of this crisis, our association has worked to help our industry keep produce moving to consumers," Michael Muzyk, President of Baldor Specialty Foods, and Chairman of United Fresh, added. "And, we’ve worked to help our members actually survive following the devastating financial impact of this crisis. Today is an important day on a path toward some stability for our industry to be able to serve consumers when we’re finally past this terrible time.”
In addition to the industry’s presented program, 108 members of Congress also sent a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue urging the USDA to support this immediate relief. Stenzel, in a press release, highlighted specific legislators who have helped spearhead the Congressional support for this letter, including Representatives Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Fred Upton (R-MI), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Doug LaMalfa (R-CA).
“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 the USDA can support our industry immediately. Next will come deep discussions and analysis within the 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 continued.
AndNowUKnow will continue to follow along with any and all fresh produce industry developments.