The different American media outlets from New York Times to Washington Post and regional press are coming out one story after the other with the details that how the American farmers are destroying their crops including vegetables because of coronavirus outbreak and lockdown. U.S. farmers have destroyed millions of pounds of perishable food like tomatoes, lettuce and green beans because growers lost a vast number of customers after the coronavirus pandemic struck.
From Florida to California and from Wisconsin to Ohio-every state is facing the severe crisis in agriculture and farmers are not in the position to sell their farm produce. There is not enough storage space to store this produce. The farmers are facing the hard times in America.
The farmers in US are now looking towards government help through stimulus package to cover some of their losses. Without the help from federal government- the farmers would not be able to survive.
American Farmers are dumping 3.7 million gallons of milk daily and a single chicken processor can smash 750,000 eggs per week, reports Dairy Farmers of America, the largest dairy farm cooperative in the country.
The International Dairy Foods Association also estimates that farmers are currently dumping about 5 per cent of the milk supply in the U.S. Many are also are being forced to bury fresh vegetables, or in some cases, donate them to organizations like Meals on Wheels.
The farmers are letting their crops rot in the fields as they have no place to sell tomatoes-green beans- cabbages and other vegetables. There is hardly any customers as these farmers sell their produce to schools-colleges-restaurants and hotels- which have been closed down due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
When the farmers grow their crops- all these businesses and education institutions were open. But when the crops ripe- all these businesses and institutions were closed as the coronavirus spread to different states and cities in US.
As one farmer called this situation a catastrophe as there is hardly few customers to sell the vegetables. “It’s been a disaster at every level — lost crops, lost sales, lost packing inventory,” a desperate farmer told the media. One farmer said that he let 10 million pounds of tomatoes rot on the farm in a region south of Miami because no market existed for them.
The closure of food-service establishments in many parts of the country in March meant that farmers who grow produce for those customers suddenly had a large surplus in storage and in the fields.
Growers said efforts to find retailers or food banks failed, forcing them to plow under their crops. Without immediate aid from government stimulus funding, they said they will have to destroy more food.
Growers felt the pandemic impact early in tourism-dominated Florida, where many farms sold directly to the local hospitality industry. South Florida is a major producer of winter vegetables, which are harvested when much of the rest of the country isn’t growing produce.
The largest trade group for produce growers, the United Fresh Produce Association, is trying to persuade the U.S. Department of Agriculture to distribute aid to its members quickly.
One senior official of the association said that “we’re trying to open channels where we can with national retailers, in case one of their distribution centers can take produce. We’re talking to schools and food banks, even if we’re only giving away food.”
“When the restaurants are shut down, there’s just nowhere for it to go,” said Allen, who also is chairman of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association.
One farmer said he donates regularly to food pantries and that he hates to destroy crops, but he couldn’t face the expense of harvest with nowhere to send the crop. That’s partly because green beans are highly perishable and about half the crop in Florida normally goes to hotels and restaurants that are, for the most part, closed or doing little business.
Some of the harvest can be donated, but the costs involved in harvest would be tremendous for that volume said one farmer. “The only thing that can help is government funding through the stimulus packages that were recently approved. Hopefully, we will see that soon.”
The farmers are demanding direct payments to them to make up for economic losses, but some government money might go to schools and institutions that would buy the fresh produce.
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