Produce industry being hit hard by restaurant closures


Fruit and vegetable farmers and their distributors are losing billions of dollars as their buyers shut down amid the COVID-19 outbreak.

The industry usually shies away from government assistance, but now are hoping they will get the help they need.

The United Produce Association is asking the USDA and Congress to set up a $5 billion fund to help pay foodservice distributors who took possession of fruits and vegetables but are now unable to sell them or pay back the farmers who grew them.

Separately, United Fresh is asking USDA to allow foodservice distributors to disperse current produce inventories immediately through federal feeding programs. “While some are using retail channels to utilize their current supplies, most inventory (is) currently sitting and waiting for a ‘customer’” United Fresh says in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

United Fresh is also requesting that schools be able to use funding through the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program to provide boxed lunches for kids.