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While farmers are facing economic hardship due to the coronavirus shutdown, Western Growers President and CEO David Puglia said on Thursday that they are going to need ongoing financial relief until restaurants reopen.
“The question is when will the economy reopen and how quickly will it reopen and how many of those restaurants are going to come back?” Puglia told “America’s Newsroom.”
Meanwhile, thousands of acres of fruits and vegetables grown in Florida are being plowed over or left to rot because farmers can’t sell to restaurants, theme parks or schools nationwide that have closed because of the coronavirus.
Currently, farmers have plenty of crops but no one to sell to. While farmers are inhibited due to the shutdown’s “massive disruption” of the food supply chain, Puglia said that another challenge will be the planning phase for the reopening of the economy.
“Farmers have to make planting decisions in California right now to be able to harvest crops in the summer and in the fall that will supply our restaurants and our universities and our schools and our grocery stores,” Puglia said.
Florida leads the U.S. in harvesting tomatoes, green beans, cabbage and peppers this time of year. While some of the crops are meant for grocery stores, many farmers cater solely to the so-called foodservice market — restaurants, schools and theme parks — hit hard as cities and states have ordered people to stay home and avoid others.
The loss has created a domino effect through the farming industry, Florida’s second-largest economic driver. It yields $155 billion in revenue and supports about 2 million jobs.
Puglia said that the $2 trillion relief package includes $9.5 billion for farmers in livestock and fresh produce sectors.
“We really need the administration to ensure that fresh produce industry players, the farmers and the farmworkers and the people who are in that food supply chain, are bridged during this period of time to stay afloat,” Puglia said.
AP contributed to this report.