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US potato industry seeks improved coronavirus-related relief from govt

The potato industry wants more equitable relief under the federal Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, or CFAP.

According to a report published by Capital Press, the National Potato Council and 18 other potato-industry organizations in a June 22 letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said USDA should make the crop eligible for the relief category with the highest per-unit reimbursement for losses, and increase other rates “to a meaningful level that is equitable with other commodities.”

The comments are in response to USDA’s original funding-availability notice, which came with a 30-day comment period to help identify additional crops eligible for relief and set payment rates for them.

Potato-price declines were well beyond the 5% threshold required to qualify for the category with the highest reimbursement rate, Council CEO Kam Quarles said in an interview.

A survey across all segments of the potato industry found a 20.5% overall price decline nationally from mid-January to mid-April, he said. USDA initially looked at data from terminal, or wholesale, markets, “and the majority of our business is not conducted at terminal markets. A lot of the potato business is conducted on contracts.”

“We think there are tremendous justifications for, at minimum, including potatoes in Category 1, and at a meaningful payment level,” Quarles said.

Producers of potatoes and other commodities experienced major losses from mandated restaurant and other foodservice closures to reduce coronavirus spread. The U.S. potato industry produces about $4 billion in annual sales, about 60% of which are to foodservice.

Read the full report in Capital Press here
The NPC letter to USDA can be accessed here

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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