Florida's Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried is calling upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase surplus goods from Florida farms. In a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue, Fried proposes this surplus be used in food assistance programs.
"We ask that you allow the flexibility needed to connect our Florida farmers, who have a surplus of high-quality products sitting in the fields and on the shelves due to the closure of many restaurants and other foodservice establishments, with our local food banks, school meal programs, and other federal food purchase and distribution programs," Fried wrote.
She points to the recently passed CARES Act as a means to purchase goods from farmers. While the Florida Department of Agriculture (FDACS) oversees school nutrition and emergency food assistance programs, Fried says, "The purchasing power remains with the USDA."
In Tallahassee, local farms are having to adjust to changes brought on by COVID-19. Some farmers are not getting many orders from restaurants and are relying on direct home deliveries and an online farmer's market to sell goods.
Josh Saul, owner, and operator of Play of Sunlight Mushrooms, a specialty mushroom farm, says Fried's proposal could help his business.
"Right now, we are leaning on a very limited market... It's vulnerable, and it's limited. It's only pretty much as strong as our online reach can be," he said.
Saul says sales have decreased due to COVID-19, so any additional forms of revenue would be useful.