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The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has launched the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to aid farmers, ranchers and food distributors and to “maintain the integrity” of the country’s food supply chain.

The US$19bn relief programme includes $16bn in direct support to framer and ranchers based on actual losses for agricultural producers where prices and market supply chains have been impacted 

It is intended to assist them with additional adjustment and marketing costs resulting from lost demand and short-term oversupply for the 2020 marketing year caused by Covid-19.

The remaining $3bn will be used to to purchase fresh produce, dairy, and meat from regional and local distributors whose workforce has been significantly impacted by the closure of many restaurants, hotels, and other foodservice entities.

Announcing the programme, US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said: “The American food supply chain had to adapt, and it remains safe, secure, and strong, and we all know that starts with America’s farmers and ranchers. This program will not only provide immediate relief for our farmers and ranchers, but it will also allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance to help our fellow Americans in need.”

The programme will begin with the procurement of an estimated $100m  per month in fresh fruits and vegetables, $100m per month in a variety of dairy products and $100m per month in meat products. 

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The distributors and wholesalers will then provide a pre-approved box of fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to food banks, community and faith-based organisations and other non-profit organisations.