Representatives Anthony Brindisi (NY-22), Elise Stefanik (NY-21), and Dan Newhouse (WA-4) lead a bipartisan call of 25 members of Congress to demand the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) include American apple growers in USDA’s economic relief efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The members, from America’s finest apple-growing communities, supported the bipartisan Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide crucial relief to family farms during the pandemic. In their letter to Secretary Perdue, they highlighted the important role apple farms play in local economies.
“We urge you to use the funds Congress provided in the CARES Act to help apple growers make it through this crisis so they may continue to provide American consumers with the number one most consumed fruit in the United States,” the members wrote. “Steep price decline clearly makes apple growers eligible for CFAP payments, based on the USDA’s requirement of a 5 percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic”
In order to qualify for the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program you need to be eligible under one of three categories:
- Had crops that suffered a five percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,
- Had produce shipped but subsequently spoiled due to loss of marketing channel, and
- Had shipments that did not leave the farm or mature crops that remained unharvested.
Despite evidence to the contrary, USDA decided to exclude apple farmers from CFAP. The members sent a letter to Secretary Perdue demanding USDA reverse its decision and providing data from the apple industry showing apple price losses ranged anywhere from 6.5% to as much as 24.9% due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Apple growers take the same risks and work the same long hours as producers of row crops and livestock,” said Jim Bair, U.S. Apple Association President & CEO. “They worry about weather, pests and markets, and in most every way apple growers are indistinguishable from other farmers, so there’s no reason not to treat them the same.“
According to USDA, the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP, provides vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a five-percent-or-greater price decline or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and face additional significant market costs.
In December 2019, Reps. Brindisi, Stefanik, and Newhouse advocated for and passed the bipartisan Farm Workforce Modernization Act in the House of Representatives. This bipartisan legislation would create a permanent workforce solution for America’s agriculture industry by providing stability, predictability, and fairness to one of the most critical sectors of our nation’s economy. This legislation now awaits action in the Senate.
The entire letter to Perdue is below:
The Honorable Sonny Perdue
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20250
RE: Docket ID FSA-2020-0004
Dear Secretary Perdue,
We write to express appreciation for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) leadership in efforts to sustain and promote U.S. agriculture production during the COVID-19 pandemic and to urgently request the inclusion of America’s apple growers in the USDA’s economic relief efforts.
We are proud to represent states with significant apple production. According to USDA data there are approximately 5,000 commercial apple growers in 32 states across the U.S. These producers are often the backbones of rural communities, producing about 250 million, 42-pound bushels of apples annually. Our apple farmers stimulate $15 billion in total economic activity when including downstream storage, sorting, packing, shipping, marketing, exporting, and processing.
As with countless industries nationwide, the outbreak of COVID-19 has had a drastic and damaging effect on apple growers. Please find enclosed a formal Notice of Funds Availability (NOFA) from the U.S. Apple Association and associated regional growing associations commenting on the USDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The enclosed sales price data on 43.8 million bushels shows that apple prices declined from 6.5 percent to 24.9 percent this year. Further, shipping volumes in the study period declined 24 percent. This steep price decline clearly makes apple growers eligible for CFAP payments, based on the USDA’s requirement of a 5 percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
We urge you to use the funds Congress provided in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help apple growers make it through this crisis so they may continue to provide American consumers with the number one most consumed fruit in the United States. Thank you for your full and fair consideration of our request, consistent with applicable statutes and regulations. We stand ready to assist in ensuring our nation’s food supply remains secure during these uncertain times.