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Many unknowns while there is not much time to lose

How does the produce industry respond to the $2t stimulus package?

This past Friday, March 27, President Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at alleviating the impact of the coronacrisis on the American public and US economy. It is the largest stimulus package in the country’s history. What do members of the produce industry think of the $2 trillion support?

Delicate balance between stopping spread and company closures
“The stimulus bill will be hugely important to the guys on the front lines of the industry, including restaurant owners and employees,” says Mark Sato with Fortune Growers. “These are the guys that are often living paycheck to paycheck and month to month. These businesses have slim margins and can’t afford to be closed for any length of time. If this goes on too long, many businesses will go bankrupt. It’s a very delicate balance between short-term stopping the spread of the disease and the long-term effects that these closures will have.”

Sato doesn’t know yet what the stimulus package will mean for his company. “We grow a diverse line of commodities and traditionally, we are heavy on the foodservice side. We’ve had to switch things up to avoid losses as much as possible. We are also donating a lot of produce to foodbanks, but even foodbanks are full now.” Fortune Growers is incurring losses due to the corona pandemic and is hoping the bill will help on both ends of the industry, from the growers to the people serving the food in restaurants. “It is still a little vague, we are trying to find out if we can get some relief,” he mentioned.

Very uncertain road ahead
Dennis Peterson with Riverbend Fresh shares that there isn't much clarity yet on how the Act will help. “I’m not sure how this will affect the farm yet. Everything is still moving, but there is a very uncertain road ahead in the next month.”

Mayra Romero of Fresco Produce, who works with both food retail and foodservice, agrees the Act sounds good, but nobody knows yet how the process is going to work. “We don’t have any information on how to get access to this aid, or how the funding will be distributed throughout the food industry. We’ll have to wait and see but the issue is that many companies won’t have much time to lose,” she said.

Fresco Produce has its farms in Mexico, and Romero shares: "This Act does show that the US government is invested in supporting the economy, which is something we are not seeing in Mexico. The Mexican government has announced that no stimulus will be offered to help the economy, which means there will be a tremendous impact on the economy since Mexico is a major exporter into the US. We have had to stop our operations on some of our farms in Mexico and are waiting to see what the effect will be. If the growers in Mexico won't have money to keep their businesses afloat and pay their workers, many companies won't be able to survive and this will affect the country's exports and have an effect on the US as well."

Consequences are unimaginable
Chris Kragie with Western Fresh Marketing is hoping the stimulus package will keep the US economy from stagnation. “I hope the bill will put more money in the hands of consumers and offers a way to keep farmers and small businesses alive until we come out of this catastrophe. The amount of the stimulus package is staggering, but before the coronavirus came into our world, the consequences would have been unimaginable. If we need more stimulus on top of the $2 trillion depends on how long the government will keep us away from normalcy.”

For more information:
Mark Sato
Fortune Growers
Ph: +1 (805) 481-1055

Mayra Romero
Fresco Produce LLC
Tel: (+1) 956-720-0917

Dennis Peterson
Riverbend Fresh LLC
Tel: +1 (559) 846-3320 

Chris Kragie 
Western Fresh Marketing 
Tel: (+1) 559-662-0301

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