FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 30, 2020

CONTACT: press@onecountryproject.org  

 

WHAT THEY ARE SAYING: FARMERS FORCED TO LEAVE CROPS TO ROT IN THEIR FIELDS

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The One Country Project (OCP) has compiled quotes from farmers and press reporting from across the United States describing the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on farmers’ harvests and the delayed response from President Trump and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to mitigate the effects.

“We have seen the vicious effects of this pandemic on America’s farmers and ranchers for weeks – with farmers being forces to destroy product or leave it rotting in their fields. These men and women have been sounding the alarm to Secretary Perdue, informing him of the realities of this pandemic for American agriculture, but the USDA has failed to take swift action,” said Founding Board Member and former North Dakota Senator Heidi Heitkamp. “Food bank and pantries across the nation sit empty because of the increased need during this health crisis, and the food our farmers grow to feed this country and the world has been allowed to fester because USDA has failed to act.”

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’This is a catastrophe,’ tomato grower Tony DiMare, who owns farms in south Florida and the Tampa Bay area said. ‘We haven’t even started to calculate it. It’s going to be in the millions of dollars. Losses mount every day.’” (WTSP, 04/08/20)

“In Wisconsin and Ohio, farmers are dumping thousands of gallons of fresh milk into lagoons and manure pits. An Idaho farmer has dug huge ditches to bury 1 million pounds of onions. And in South Florida, a region that supplies much of the Eastern half of the United States with produce, tractors are crisscrossing bean and cabbage fields, plowing perfectly ripe vegetables back into the soil.” (New York Times, 04/11/20)

“The amount of waste is staggering. The nation’s largest dairy cooperative, Dairy Farmers of America, estimates that farmers are dumping as many as 3.7 million gallons of milk each day. A single chicken processor is smashing 750,000 unhatched eggs every week.” (New York Times, 04/11/20)

Two million chickens on several farms in Delaware and Maryland will be “depopulated” — meaning humanely killed — due to a lack of employees at chicken processing plants, according to a statement from Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc… The Maryland Department of Agriculture says it learned of the company’s plans on April 9 and “continues to monitor for any developments.” (CNN, 04/26/20)

Tens of millions of pounds of American-grown produce is rotting in fields as food banks across the country scramble to meet a massive surge in demand, a two-pronged disaster that has deprived farmers of billions of dollars in revenue while millions of newly jobless Americans struggle to feed their families.” (Politico, 04/26/2020)

“’It’s frustrating,’ said Nikki Fried, commissioner of agriculture in Florida. Fried, who is a Democrat, and much of the Florida congressional delegation asked Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue nearly a month ago to use his broad authority and funding to get more Florida farmers plugged into federal food purchasing and distribution programs as the food service market collapsed. ‘Unfortunately, USDA didn’t move until [last week].’” (Politico, 04/26/2020)

“In March, about a week after much of the country shut down restaurants, events and other food-service businesses, several produce groups wrote to USDA with an urgent plea to buy perishable commodities because at least $1 billion was “sitting stagnant in the supply chainThe department did not make any fresh purchases in response to that request, according to USDA records. Perdue has yet to respond to the letter. (Politico, 04/26/2020)

“The USDA has a $3 billion program to buy up food and redistribute it to the needy — but industry leaders say they took so long to develop a response that it will now do little to help.” (Business Insider, 04/27/20)

“One typical dairy in Wisconsin, the Golden E Dairy has been pouring up to 25,000 gallons of milk down the drain, reported the paper.” (Business Insider, 04/27/20)

“State officials and lawmakers pleaded for the USDA to buy up mass quantities of food from farmers after schools and restaurants around the nation shut down due to the coronavirus, but the department did not respond with a plan to buy up surplus products from farmers until last week.” (Salon, 04/27/20)