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April 10, 2020

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to reassure Americans about the safety and availability of the food supply, we’re also seeing more food businesses shift strategies to sell food to consumers. In the coming weeks and months, the industry must remain nimble to maintain fluidity through the supply chain.

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NABC is actively advocating on behalf of the blueberry industry to address the negative impact of COVID-19 on 2020 production and sales. Therefore, we’re encouraging each and every grower to be vigilant in their record keeping. Like a hurricane relief program, if the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) does announce a disaster relief program for growers, these records on total production, average yields per acre and average pricing will all be important to have at the ready.
Weekly Crop Report

The Weekly Crop Report, dated April 8, 2020, is now available for viewing here. This is the first in a series of weekly North American Blueberry Council (NABC) highbush blueberry crop reports for the 2020 season. Reports will continue each Wednesday throughout the season through to September.
Point of Purchase: Changes in Retail and Foodservice

We’ve reported on the evolving changes to the retail landscape, including limited number of in-store customers, one-way aisles and enhanced protection at check-outs. Here’s the latest round-up of changes to protect and meet consumers’ needs:
  • Panera Bread announced they’re now selling groceries from their store locations for rapid pickup and contactless delivery, including fresh blueberries, among other produce, and a variety of breads and yogurt.
  • Retailers are putting up more guardrails, including a newly announced requirement for mask wearing at Sacramento’s Nugget Markets and expanded temperature screenings for employees at Walmart, Amazon and Kroger.
  • Some retailers are pivoting on promotional plans, such as highlighting fresh produce given higher stock levels and reassessing advertising plans on a weekly (vs. monthly) basis.
Food & Farm Aid: What Can Farmers Expect From the Stimulus Packages?

Details on the $9.5 billion of the stimulus package for cattle ranchers, fresh produce growers and other agricultural sectors are still ironing out, and the USDA has not provided timing for an announcement. Secretary Sonny Perdue commented that the department intends to get money out as soon as possible, but stressed the importance of balanced and fair disbursement across commodities.

Food & Farm Aid: Connecting Produce Growers With Consumers

To alleviate and limit the food losses of COVID-19, several organizations are connecting growers directly to the consumer.
  • The University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, in partnership with the Florida Department of Agriculture, are building a directory of Florida-based farms selling directly to consumers, online farmers markets, community food hubs or food distributors who now are selling directly to households. Interested participants can sign up here.
  • The Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association (FFVA) is helping growers move inventory during the crisis. Interested companies can contact the association at and share their company name, consumer pickup location, phone number, Facebook/Twitter addresses, what products they want to sell and the hours they’ll be selling.
Labor: Virus Rules Relaxed to Get Essential Workers Back to Work

New guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) relax requirements to allow essential workers potentially exposed to COVID-19 return to work sooner. These new guidelines recommend that exposed employees take their temperatures before their shifts, wear face masks and practice social distancing at work. They also are advised to stay home if they are ill, not share headsets or other objects used near the face, and refrain from congregating in crowded break rooms.
Point of Purchase: SNAP Online Pilot Program Expanded

On Wednesday, Secretary Sonny Perdue announced the expansion of online purchasing options for SNAP recipients to Arizona and California, which builds upon the list of states that currently allow it. With the addition of these two states in the online food purchase program, over 4.8 million more Americans will have access to flexible grocery options, aimed to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. Retailers that have been involved in the program and accept SNAP payments online to date include Walmart, Amazon, ShopRite and Wrights Market.

Industry Insight: Farm Journal to Host Digital Event for Ag Industry

Farm Journal, the parent company of The Packer, will host a one-day digital event on April 16 from 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. CT in partnership with Agri Marketing magazine. This free event will feature new research on the farmer, the impact of COVID-19 on the American food supply and a review of agriculture’s biggest challenges. Registration and more information is available here.

Labor: New COVID-19 Relief Package for Farmworkers Proposed in California

Given the labor shortages facing essential California farms, Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, proposed several bills within the “California Farmworker COVID-19 Relief Package” to expand sick leave, provide supplemental hazard pay, extend a tax credit to farmers and help expedite temporary housing to support social distancing recommendations. Timing for discussion on the package is unclear given that the Assembly’s recess has been extended until May 4.
Moments of Good and Inspiration

Finally, we’ve continued to see many moments of inspiration around the industry this week and wanted to round out today by sharing a few. To thank those on the front lines of food production, Perdue Chicken Chairman Jim Perdue recorded a “selfie mode” video to share his appreciation. Additionally, Google homepage’s header this morning featured a tribute to farmers and farmworkers.
 COVID-19 Coverage Roundup 

Here’s today’s roundup from our crisis communication agency, FleishmanHillard.
Ag Industry
Sun-Maid Raisins Employee Who Worked this Past Weekend Tests Positive for Coronavirus Fresno Bee
JAZZ Apples, Oppy Offer Support to Feed Children During COVID-19 Produce News
California Strawberries Share Peak Curve with COVID-19 Produce News

Food Safety
Processing Plants Taking Steps Against Virus Spread Western Farm Press
Death, Illness Reports Cause Industry to Get Busy with COVID-19 Mitigation Measures Food Safety News

International Trade
Food Supply Fears Are Growing as Romania Bans Grain Exports Bloomberg
India's Coronavirus Relief Plan Could Leave Millions Without Food Aid, Activists Say Reuters
Foodwatch Concerned About Interim EU Rules During Coronavirus Food Safety News

Trump: Money Going to Farmers ‘in the Pretty Near Future’ Agri Pulse
Ag Hurt ‘Very Badly’ by COVID-19, Trump Says Agri Pulse
USDA Extends Marketing Assistance Loans to Full Year Agri Pulse
National Restaurant Association to Congress: The Industry is Approaching $100 billion in Losses and Needs More Federal Relief Restaurant Hospitality
Local Growers Need Aid Too Farm Progress

Foodservice and Food Manufacturing
Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Helping During Coronavirus Pandemic Earns Companies Brand-Awareness, Loyalty Long Term Food Navigator
Food & Beverage Manufacturers Thank First-Responders, Help Feed Those in Need during pandemic Food Navigator
Emergency Meals Available to Rural School Districts Delta Farm Press
Stories from the Front Lines: University of Connecticut Dining Services on Communication with Students During the Coronavirus Pandemic Food Management
Slow March of Escalating Precautions Worries Workers Winsight Grocery Business
District Gives Out Frozen Food to Students SNA SmartBrief

Retail Initiatives
Slow March of Escalating Precautions Worries Workers Winsight Grocery Business
‘American Lives Are on the Line,’ Insists the UFCW Winsight Grocery Business
Chickens, Eggs and Black Swans: 3 Food Industry Trends That COVID-19 Will Accelerate Winsight Grocery Business
Walmart Is Setting A Smart Example For The Rest Of The Grocery Industry To Follow Forbes

Supply Chain
Robots Welcome to Take Over, as Pandemic Accelerates Automation New York Times
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