By Clint Thompson
President Trump signed the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) into law on Friday to help provide some financial relief to Americans and jumpstart the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Monetary help may be on the way for fruit and vegetable growers in the Southeast, but the effects of the pandemic have already been felt on crops being harvested in Florida and those already planted in other states like Georgia and Alabama.
“I think certainly (the stimulus package) is going to help the industry. Exactly how and where that money is going to be used is hard to tell,” said Charles Hall, executive director of the Georgia Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association. “Right now, our concern is that with the food service industry down, we potentially could have a lot of produce that can’t be marketed.
“That’s what is happening in Florida right now; tomatoes, zucchinis, products that would normally be going to food service, it’s too much to be absorbed by the retailers. There are crops in the field right now that can’t be harvested. There’s no reason to pay the workers to go harvest them because they don’t have a market for them.”
The CARES Act includes $9.5 billion to support agriculture industries impacted by COVID-19, including fruit and vegetable producers and livestock producers.
“It’s just the uncertainty. We don’t know what may or may not happen from that standpoint. We feel that there will be some benefit from the stimulus package to the industry,” Hall said. “It’s too early to tell how that’s going to be helpful to us.”