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Idaho Delegation Commends Secretary Perdue on Potato and Dairy Purchase Announcement

USDA responds to Idaho Delegation letters to assist food producers due to COVID-19 impacts

Washington, D.C. -- On Monday, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue announced $470 million in food purchases under Section 32 funding to occur in the third quarter of the 2020 fiscal year.  Section 32 funds are used for a number of purposes to support the agricultural supply chain.  As part of the announcement, Secretary Perdue designated $50 million in surplus potato purchases, the highest of any specialty crop, and $120 million in surplus dairy purchases. 

“While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to restrict demand on dairy and fresh potato products, the USDA’s surplus commodities purchase is welcome news for Idaho farmers and producers struggling to sell and distribute goods,” said Senator Mike Crapo.  “The USDA’s purchase of excess potatoes and dairy will help provide short-term, immediate relief for many Idaho potato and dairy farmers and will supply food banks and nutrition assistance programs throughout the United States.  A farmer’s job does not stop because a global pandemic strikes, and I will continue to work with my colleagues and the Administration to support their hard and steady work in this difficult time.” 

“Idaho’s agricultural industry has been severely disrupted by COVID-19, with supply chains shrinking or disappearing altogether.  Potatoes and dairy, two of Idaho’s largest agricultural commodities and industries that produce heavily for the food service pipeline, have been hit especially hard as their traditional markets have nearly vanished overnight,” said Senator James Risch.  “I appreciate Secretary Perdue recognizing this present difficulty and taking an initial step to provide much needed assistance to our farmers.  I will continue working with the Secretary to find ways to support all facets of our agricultural industry and provide relief to our farmers and ranchers.” 

“Idaho farmers and ranchers have felt a drastic impact from COVID-19 from the slowdown of the food service industry.  Crops have not stopped growing and cows have not stopped producing milk, so the work of our essential agricultural industry has not stopped even though their markets are drying up through no fault of their own.  That is why I am so thankful to Secretary Perdue for today’s announcement on food purchases, especially for dairy and potatoes,” said Representative Mike Simpson.  “There is still more work needed to help our Idaho farmers and ranchers but the food purchase announcement is welcome news.” 

“Today’s announcement by Secretary Sonny Perdue is great news for our farmers and ranchers.  The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many of Idaho’s markets to dry up, but our crops continue to grow and our cows continue to produce milk,” said Representative Russ Fulcher.  “I look forward to working with the Secretary as we administer CARES Act funding to assist Idaho’s many producers during this difficult time.” 

“With sit-down restaurants closed as part of the effort to contain the coronavirus, markets for many of the products made from Idaho milk have dried up.  At the same time, many more people who have lost their jobs are relying on food banks to keep their families fed and healthy in their time of crisis,” said Rick Naerebout, CEO of Idaho Dairymen’s Association.  “Every USDA announcement to purchase and donate food to nonprofit assistance organizations to distribute to the public includes milk, cheese, butter, yogurt and other dairy products.  The Idaho Dairymen’s Association thanks Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and his entire team for their help to the dairy industry in our time of crisis.” 

“The Idaho Potato Industry very much welcomes this positive and hopeful news,” said Nick Blanksma, Idaho Potato Chairman and Idaho Potato Grower.  “We’re grateful to Secretary Perdue, Undersecretary Ibach and the entire team at USDA.  Given the loss of 60% of the market for Idaho Potatoes and potato products in the Food Service sector, this is a good down payment that hopefully begins the process of restoring the normal movement of Idaho potatoes in our nation.”

Background: In April, the Idaho Delegation sent a letter to Secretary Perdue requesting assistance for Idaho farmers and ranchers who have been impacted by COVID-19.  Specifically, the delegation outlined the effects to dairy, potato, onion, cattle, sheep, grain, and hops production and asked that the $9.5 billion provided in the CARES Act for agriculture include Idaho’s diverse agricultural industry.  USDA’s final rule for allocating CARES Act funding for agriculture relief is still forthcoming.  In addition, the delegation has sent letters to the USDA concerning payment limitations, risk management, labor, local FSA utilization, cattle, specialty crops, and dairy in relation to COVID-19.