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A Message From Tom Stenzel on Coronavirus/COVID-19

Mar 16, 2020

March 16, 2020; 5:45 pm EDT/2:45 pm PDT

Dear members of the produce industry,

First, we thank you for your extraordinary commitment to keep fresh produce moving to millions of consumers across the United States and around the world. Your role is truly an essential part of the public health infrastructure, and we’ve never had a better example than today.

United Fresh Produce Association is in almost constant touch with the nation’s public health and government leaders to bring you the resources and information you need to serve both our consumers and your employees. We also are working closely with allied food associations in every industry sector, and of course, our produce allies.

We have now segmented our Coronavirus/COVID-19 webpage resources into a consumer-facing page where you can direct consumer and/or employee questions, and a second industry-facing page where we outline information critical to keeping our supply chain moving. While there are tremendous losses in some sectors and overwhelming demands in others, our goal must be to continue bringing our healthy fresh fruits and vegetables to people through whatever channels we can.

To that end, we have created a new LinkedIn Group where we encourage industry members to share specific needs you might have; capacity or resources that you might have available to assist others; questions for peers who might be able to share advice; etc. We are hoping you can make connections through this resource to work together to keep the supply chain moving. 

Finally, let me comment here on some significant developments. As we learn more, we will constantly be updating our website and encourage you to check back in frequently.

  • The White House has issued this afternoon The President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America – 15 Days to Slow the Spread. This document should serve now as the overriding guidance for the country over the next two weeks.

  • We are encouraged that the President heard the message from the food industry this weekend and urged all citizens NOT to hoard food and essential supplies, which only serves to disrupt our supply chains. In a conference call with the White House yesterday, retail grocers across the industry stressed their commitment to restocking food quickly and as frequently as possible. Today’s announcement above reinforces that grocery stores will be open and restaurants can sell food for pick-up or delivery.

  • We and our food association partners are meeting frequently with government officials to address infrastructure needs and other areas where government needs to facilitate keeping supply chains moving. A good example of those actions was the decision by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to waive the Hours of Service rule to allow truckers to deliver food and medical supplies. Other areas we are focusing government attention include port and border crossing priority for food, access to H2A guest-worker labor and preventing impediments to domestic labor, prioritization of sanitation and cleaning supplies for food facilities, and many other areas.

  • The US Department of Agriculture is supporting states and local school districts in making breakfast and lunch available to children (and in many cases, families) while schools are closed. There have been rumors that fresh foods may be reduced, but USDA assures that is not the case nor intent. Waivers may be issued for compliance with the detailed menu patterns if needed, but that is on a case-by-case basis if foods become unavailable. If we keep the produce coming, schools will continue to feed our kids.

  • Today, the Canadian government announced restrictions on non-citizen access to Canada. We have confirmed with our allies at the Canadian Produce Marketing Association that there is an exemption for cross border trade. Produce trucks with foreign drivers should be able to cross the border to deliver food to Canadians.

If you have questions or suggestion for additional resources for our webpage, please send them along and we will do our best to answer them. And, we greatly appreciate your patience on individual phone calls or emails. If you have a question, it is likely that many others do as well so we are trying to post all information we can for all to see.

Thank you, and thank you especially for continuing to feed America and feed the world!

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