A bipartisan group of 25 lawmakers sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Purdue on Monday demanding that the USDA to include apple growers in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program after the department decided to keep apple growers out of the program.

The group — including Democratic Reps. Jim Costa, TJ Cox, and John Garamendi from California, and Republican Rep. Dan Newhouse of Washington — represent states with significant apple production and cited data showing decreases in apple prices ranging from 6.5% to 24.9% during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, a part of the larger Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provides financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities that suffer a 5% or greater price decline, had produce that shipped but was spoiled due to loss of marketing channel, had shipments that did not leave the farm, or had mature crops that remained unharvested.

“Steep price decline clearly makes apple growers eligible for CFAP payments, based on the USDA’s requirement of a 5 percent-or-greater price decline between mid-January and mid-April as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the members wrote.

This letter follows another from several organizations representing the apple industry that was sent on June 16. One of these organizations, USApple, claimed “approximately 95% of U.S. apple sales are made between packer/shippers and large supermarket chains, but data from these sales were not captured by USDA and therefore were not included in the CFAP analysis.”

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"Apple growers take the same risks and work the same long hours as producers of row crops and livestock,” Jim Bair, U.S. Apple Association President and CEO, said in a statement. “They worry about weather, pests and markets, and in most every way apple growers are indistinguishable from other farmers, so there’s no reason not to treat them the same.“

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