Earlier today, the Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation, along with other sweet potato interest groups filed a letter with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue on behalf of the U.S. sweet potato industry.   The letter highlight the major impact COVID-19 made on the industry and spells out the need for USDA to take into consideration special marketing scenarios as the rules and regulations are clarified for eligibility in the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP).

The letter states, “The sweet potato industry would like to extend our most sincere thanks to you for your continual support of all of our nation’s farmers and ranchers throughout the COVID-19 crisis.  As an industry, we pride ourselves on our long history of producing a safe, healthy, and quality specialty crop product that is now available worldwide.  As you are well aware, COVID-19 caused a severe disruption of the food service industry, which was detrimental to sectors of our marketing channels and has left many sweet potato growers with millions of pounds of sweet potatoes in storage that cannot be sold.  As has been communicated with sweet potato growers by various FSA offices across the country, these sweet potatoes may not be eligible for coverage under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) because FSA may still consider these sweet potatoes to be sellable.  On behalf of the nation’s sweet potato industry, our organizations would like to clarify why many of these sweet potatoes will, in fact, not be marketable.”

The letter went on to say, The impact of COVID-19 has undoubtedly shaken every aspect of our lives, and in the case of the sweet potato industry, the producers are feeling the same disruptions and losses as many other segments of agriculture.  Food service closures meant an instantaneous loss of 35% of the sweet potato market.  There is no doubt that Americans love their sweet potatoes; however, with this type of loss, we estimate that as much as 25% of the industry may end up out of business due to market disruptions.  Sweet potato growers with potatoes in storage for which there are no markets need assistance to remain profitable and stay in business in order to continue their efforts to feed Americans and the world.  Our request is that sweet potatoes that have no market due to any of the conditions that we have outlined be considered eligible for immediate qualification under Category Three of the CFAP specialty crop program.  We remain available to discuss this and provide any additional information required to render a qualification decision.”

 A copy of the full letter can be viewed here:

Sweet Potato Letter to USDA