United Fresh Produce Association, on behalf of our 1,500 member companies that make up the full fresh produce supply chain at the forefront of the fresh and fresh-cut produce industry, including growers, shippers, fresh-cut processors, wholesalers, distributors, retailers, foodservice operators, industry suppliers and allied associations – has requested urgent action by Congress to mitigate the challenges facing the sectors that have been impacted most severely as a result of the National Emergency Concerning the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
The immediate impact felt by the fresh produce supply chain:
- $5 billion for exposure for lost inventory and risk to growers
- $1 billion a week in lost sales
- tens of thousands employee furloughed
In a letter sent on Saturday, March 21, addressed to Speaker Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House Minority Leader McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Schumer; and a similar letter to USDA Secretary Perdue, we request Congress and USDA consider our recommendations to specially address the food and agriculture community during this COVID-19 crisis.
Among many specific sector relief requests, we urge Congress to:
- Establish a $1 billion fund [NOTE: as of today, March 23, we have gathered more intelligence from the industry that will increase this number to $5 Billion.] that would be utilized to address claims filed by food service distributors who have outstanding expenditures to grower-shippers. Based on submission and verification of these claims by food service distributors the fund would allow USDA to reimburse grower-shippers directly based on these approved claims.
- Immediately make an additional $1 billion available under DoD Fresh and USDA Vendor Program to help meet the needs of schools and all emergency feeding sites that are experiencing increased demand. Notably, DoD Fresh prime vendors and fresh produce vendors are primarily small businesses that face a unique set of challenges when disruption hits. We urge Congress and USDA to take advantage of the opportunity to utilize this existing supply chain capability to meet the needs of schools, food banks, and other emergency feeding sites that are scrambling to meet the unprecedented needs of their communities – while ensuring these businesses can continue to provide employment for their workers and be in business when schools return.
- Provide $225 million funding for the Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to accommodate a temporary increase to the cash-value voucher benefits.