Program will help Georgia vegetable farmers

Georgia vegetable farmers stressed by the collapse of markets due to coronavirus may get some federal help.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue finalized a new program that will buy farm products directly from growers to use in feeding programs across the nation.

The USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program will purchase $461 million in fresh fruits and vegetables, $317 million in a variety of dairy products, $258 million in meat products and $175 million in a combination box of fresh produce, dairy or meat products. Suppliers will package these products into family-sized boxes, which will be distributed by food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other non-profits from May 15 to mid-June.

Georgia's farmers sell about half of their crop to restaurants and non-grocery food services like school cafeterias, many of which have closed because of the spread of COVID-19.

“This is a new, innovative approach to provide critical support to American farmers and families, and USDA moved as expeditiously as federal procurement rules allow to stand up the program and solicit offers,” Perdue said in a press release.

A full list of approved suppliers will be posted on the Farmers to Families Food Box Program website at 5 p.m. Friday, May 8.

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