Ag Policy Blog

Produce, Dairy Groups Send Aid Requests to USDA

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
Produce and dairy groups are among those that have now sent proposals for aid to USDA. (DTN file photo)

Produce Industry Sends USDA Market Stabilization Proposal

The United Fresh Produce Association and other industry groups sent the Agriculture Department on Tuesday what United Fresh calls “a comprehensive Produce Market Stabilization Program to immediately support critical financial needs in the produce supply chain” hurt by the coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” United Fresh President and CEO Tom Stenzel said in a news release.

Stenzel was referring to a letter that Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., and other House members sent to USDA earlier Tuesday asking for help for the industry.

“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 USDA can support our industry immediately. Next will come deep discussions and analysis within 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 said.

In an email message to members, Stenzel said, “Ours is not a supply chain that can pause – when we harvest today, that product starts a journey that ends up being consumed usually in just a couple weeks. But disruptions to demand at the end of that journey create financial impact everywhere along the chain from field to table. Whether it’s lost inventory along the supply chain or crops left in the field, the impact is shared. And that’s to say nothing about future lost sales.

“So the proposal to USDA with 85 different produce organizations signed on is nothing less than amazing. Rather than each group fighting for its own, we’ve forged a consensus that I can assure you is our best chance for real relief. We have to fight for this together as an industry, as every other food and agriculture sector is facing its own challenges and they have a seat at the table, too. There is still a long and steep road ahead.”

Dairy Groups Send Aid Proposal to USDA

The National Milk Producers Federation, the largest organization of U.S. dairy farmers, and the International Dairy Foods Association also submitted a request for assistance to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern offered the following statement:

“As most of the country shelters in place and large swaths of the foodservice sector come to a standstill, dairy sales outside retail channels have plummeted. Market prices have fallen rapidly, creating a crushing economic outlook for producers of nutritious, and necessary, milk and dairy products.

“While no plan can wholly remedy the losses that are occurring, dairy is responding with a united plan that can help mitigate the damage caused to it by the COVID-19 pandemic. After extensive discussions across the industry, we have developed this comprehensive action plan to address many of the key marketplace challenges created by the pandemic and are presenting it to USDA.

“We will engage in discussions with USDA in the coming days to discuss the proposal, urging the department, as we know it will, to move quickly to address the effects of the pandemic on our industry. We also understand the demands being placed on USDA at this time. Nevertheless, after five straight years of poor milk prices that were just starting to improve before the pandemic hit, USDA’s immediate actions here will be critical to help people survive the market devastation that has occurred. We look forward to working closely with USDA as we fight for dairy farmers.”

Dairy Industry Proposal: https://bit.ly/…

Nebraska Senator Wants Hearing on Cattle Markets

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., this week asked the Senate Judiciary Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights Subcommittee to hold a public hearing “to examine claims of price manipulation, collusion, restriction of competition, price gouging, or other unfair practices within the current structure of the beef meatpacking industry.”

In a letter to Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, chairman of the subcommittee, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., the ranking member, Fischer wrote, “In the past year, family cattle operations have faced volatile markets and a widening of the spread between the price received for cattle and the boxed beef price, which has caused a number of Nebraska cattle producers to question the integrity of cattle markets. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted this disparity. We’ve seen dramatic price swings in the cattle market that have negatively impacted producers’ bottom lines while prices that packers receive for boxed beef have increased.”

Fischer said that, while she supports Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s inquiry into the situation, “it has become clear we as lawmakers must do our duty to investigate allegations of wrongdoing under the authorities and congressional intent set forth by the Packers and Stockyards Act (PSA) to ensure cattle producers have a fair chance in the marketplace.”

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport

(CZ\SK)

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