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Article: Food & Ag Policy Briefing

15 April 2020

Read below article taken from IEG Policy platform dated 14/04/20

On Wednesday, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue spoke of rolling out COVID-19 aid for farmers as a priority, with the USDA hoping to unveil its initial assistance plan "sooner rather than later".

"We are in the process right now of collecting proposals and ideas from every sector affected so we can be ... balanced and fair in the allocation of the $9.5 billion, as well as what we have currently in Commodity Credit Corporation, which is approximately $6 billion," Perdue told reporters.

Also on Wednesday, the union in the US representing grocery and pharmacy workers as well as employees at food processing and meatpacking plants urged the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue mandatory guidance to better protect them from the novel coronavirus.

The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) called for quick action to ensure its more than 1.3 million food and retail workers - who are "on the public frontlines" of the pandemic - are afforded adequate safeguards from COVID-19.

The demands come as grocers and restaurateurs in the US continued struggling to keep up with the deepening health crisis, working to boost employee health and safety in a shifting risk environment, while also demanding that government step in and do more to help, including beefing up financial rescue packages for small businesses. Walmart, on April 6, was slapped with a wrongful death lawsuit after two employees of a Supercenter in Evergreen Park, Ill. —Wando Evans and Phillip Thomas — died due to complications of COVID-19.

Europe's fruit and veg sector under pressure

In Europe, the fruit and veg sector was among those revealing the strain of the pandemic last week. Insufficient numbers of seasonal workers, decreased efficiency in packing houses due to social distancing, increased documentation requirements and greater transportation costs were weighing heavily on the sector.

On Thursday (April 9), EU finance ministers agreed a €500 billion aid package to help the bloc face the economic and social crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Among the critics of the package were green groups who said that the EU's plans to allocate emergency funds to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic was moving away from the sustainability ambition of the European Green Deal, the bloc's 2050 climate-neutral plan.

Greenpeace EU climate policy adviser Sebastian Mang said "business as usual is no longer an option - only a just and green recovery can reboot our economy and make our societies more resilient."

EU member state action

Among the EU's member states, Bulgaria's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry drafted a regulation to oblige the country's retailers to make sure that more than half of the offered food products were made by local producers.

Italy's agriculture minister Teresa Bellanova said that Italian authorities were issuing fines ranging from €15,000 to €60,000 to anyone who engages in unfair market practices that affect Italian-made food products and damage their reputation.

Spain approved an urgent decree to secure an adequate agricultural workforce amid people's movement restrictions, targeting upcoming stone fruit and strawberry harvests.

Spirits drinks producers in Denmark and Sweden received approval to tweak their production to products that are a larger pressing public health need for - like hand sanitiser.

Portugal's food safety and economic monitoring authority (ASAE) issued a set of instructions addressing key questions for the national food industry, including the issue of COVID-19 transmission risk via food products.

Russia's Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) has announced it has simplified procedures for processing batches of animal and vegetable products imported into Russia considering the global fallout from COVID-19.

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