(Washington, D.C.) The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced the purchase of the boxed agricultural products–as part of the Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program (CFAP), Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The USDA approved $1.2 billion in contracts to support American producers and communities in need through the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program. The agency also provides After School Meals, Senior Programs, and Pop-Up Pantries.
“The food bank’s after school meals program will continue at all site locations that plan to remain open during the pandemic. Senior Programs will continue its monthly distribution of supplemental bagged/boxed shelf stable groceries through its Grocery Plus and My Groceries to Go locations (both part of the Commodity Supplemental Food Program) and Senior Brown Bag program.
Pop-Up Pantries supplies food through its network of nonprofit partners, which includes churches and other nonprofit organizations. However, in some non-partner areas the USDA is helping to meet current needs, through its food holding pop-up pantries in select locations. These pop-ups are for people without the funds to buy adequate food, and who would ordinarily seek help from a food pantry.
“Some in the produce industry have criticized USDA’s implementation of the program, and the United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458 sent a letter to USDA May 11 asking for an explanation and accountability for the companies USDA gave grants to.”
“Tom Stenzel, president and CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association BB #:145458, penned a letter to Bruce Summers, administrator for the USDA’s Agriculture Marketing Service, following the announcement of contracts for the agency’s Farmers to Families Food Box program.”
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the program on April 17th “as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program developed to help farmers, ranchers and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.”
The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) “has partnered with national, regional and local suppliers, whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels and other food service businesses, to purchase up to $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy and meat products. The program will purchase $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in a variety of dairy products, $258 million in meat products and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. Suppliers will package these products into family-sized boxes, then transport them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits serving Americans in need from May 15 through June 30, 2020. AMS may elect to extend the period of performance of the contracts, via option periods, dependent upon program success and available remaining funds, up to $3 billion, according to the USDA.
“This is a new, innovative approach to provide critical support to American farmers and families, and USDA moved as expeditiously as federal procurement rules allow to stand up the program and solicit offers,” said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. “We were pleased to see the abundance of interest from both food distributors and non-profit organizations. Within days, the Farmers to Families Food Box Program will begin distributing surplus food, while safeguarding food safety techniques, to communities across the country where it’s needed most.”
“As part of its efforts to enforce the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA) and ensure fair trading practices within the U.S. produce industry, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has filed an administrative complaint against JLD Inc., –doing business as North Country Wholesale.”
The company, operating from New Hampshire, allegedly failed to make payment promptly to 18 produce sellers in the amount of $260,260 from April 2018 through January 2019.
But, Thursday, David J. Cottrell Jr., Contract Specialist at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, sent him a notice saying it was terminated “for the government’s convenience.” Ben Holtz, whose small produce company won a $40 million USDA Farmers to Families Food Box contract, said USDA terminated it on May 20. Some other companies who received the contracts had limited — if any — experience in fresh produce, Holtz is a fourth-generation avocado grower who has served on the California Avocado Commission. The USDA cancellation of the Holtz’s contract had to have an underlining reason for ending the contract, i.e. health or performance reasons.
Ivanka Trump joined Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan — to launched the $3 billion Families Fresh Box program. The initiative aims to connect surplus produce, meat and dairy with food banks and other nonprofits that serve people in need including churches.
“I’m proud that the majority of the recipients are small and regional food suppliers who prioritize smaller farms and nonprofits in their bids,” Ivanka Trump said.
In response to mounting critic of the USDA, Secretary Perdue announced that his department will spend $3 billion in coronavirus relief money to purchase and distribute agricultural goods through regional and local distributors. Perdue announcement was in response to farmers attacking the USDA for allow billions of dollars’ worth of fruit, vegetables and other farm products—lay and waste because of the coronavirus pandemic. President Donald J. Trump—advise Perdue at a recent White House event ‘Sonny, I want you to bring me a program that will work.’”
“When this thing happened, obviously, it was horrifying to hear about vegetables having to be plowed under because of no markets and milk having to be dump, animals potentially having to be euthanized because we had broken the supply chain,” Perdue said.
Food Program Contract list.