A significant number of industry groups are seeking financial relief for the produce supply chain through a comprehensive Produce Market Stabilization Program. Nearly 90 industry organizations representing a variety of commodities have presented the plan to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which requests $5 billion in funding to support the produce industry. The effort has also garnered support from more than 100 members of Congress who are urging USDA to provide immediate relief to the industry.
“Over a five-day period, 30 million school lunches, 15 million school breakfasts, and 100 million meals at restaurants EVERY DAY stopped being served,” the group notes in the proposal for the plan. “The fresh produce industry estimates that this sudden change has resulted in $5 billion in losses to produce growers, shippers, and wholesalers during this emergency. Looking forward, the industry is experiencing as much as $1 billion a week in lost sales that simply cannot be converted fully to a changing retail market.”
The proposal details who would be eligible for immediate assistance, which includes dealers and growers of fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts who suffered various types of losses between March 1 and June 30. Growers would be covered for losses incurred due to cancelled or reduced contracts, along with losses from unpaid or partially paid invoices for produce. Licensed dealers would be eligible for assistance to cover actual economic losses suffered because of the shutdown of the foodservice sector or other customer sales outlets caused by COVID-19.
Groups who have given support to the emergency relief plan include the California Farm Bureau Federation, California Citrus Mutual, California Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement, and the California Avocado Commission. The Produce Market Stabilization Program also encourages USDA to focus on fresh produce purchases for distribution to community food banks, schools, and other emergency feeding outlets.