USDA to purchase $4.5 million in fresh tomatoes - The Packer

USDA to purchase $4.5 million in fresh tomatoes

04/04/2013 05:00:00 PM
Tom Karst

The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to purchase $4.5 million in fresh tomatoes.

“This purchase will assist tomato growers who are struggling with challenging marketing conditions caused by an oversupply of domestic tomatoes, international competition, and declining prices” Edward Avalos, USDA under secretary of Marketing and Regulatory Programs said in an April 4 e-mail. “The purchase will help mitigate further downward prices, stabilize market conditions, and provide high-quality, nutritious food to recipients of USDA’s nutrition programs.”

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service purchases a variety of food products to supply federal nutrition programs, including the national school lunch program and emergency food assistance program.

The tomato industry in Florida made a request to the USDA for a fresh tomato purchase a couple of months ago, said Tony DiMare, vice president of the Homestead-based DiMare Co.

DiMare said he had not seen details of the purchase as of April 4.

“It sounds good,” he said. “We’re going to have to see what the volume amounts to.”

He said the USDA purchases of fresh tomatoes are needed, and not just because of the dollars alone.

“You are not looking to move loads when the market is high, you are looking to move volume when the market is typically cheaper,” he said.

DiMare said USDA purchases are not just a spring or winter need for growers.

“We feel like there should be at least a request made to solicit a buy from the government on a regular basis, even if it is in the fall of the year,” he said.

Market conditions for Florida tomatoes were weakening in early April, DiMare said April 4. DiMare said a $12-14 f.o.b. market of several weeks ago has been replaced by a f.o.b. market from $7-10 per carton and trending more to $7-8 per carton, he said.

DiMare said Homestead tomato production will fade out by mid-April, with Immokalee fields expected to have production until early May. Round tomatoes from Palmetto-Ruskin, Fla., will begin by mid-April, he said, with the region’s grape tomatoes beginning by about April 7.

For more information, contact: Contracting Officer, USDA/AMS Commodity Procurement Staff, Stop 0256, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250;(202) 720-4517; or visit the AMS website at

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Trent Bishop    
Mission, TX  |  April, 05, 2013 at 09:11 AM

Well now, isn't this generous of our USDA. I don't seem to recall the chapter in my economic books where this particular market condition was taught. In my industry, we still live and die by the old rules of supply and demand. However, I would like to get the buyer's phone number at the USDA office. I may just have a deal for him.

Florida  |  April, 05, 2013 at 09:51 AM

"The control of the production of wealth is the control of human life itself." Hilaire Belloc from The Servile State.

Gene Harris    
Spartanburg, SC  |  April, 05, 2013 at 09:50 AM

If they are buying the tomatoes to use them in a school lunch program, that's great! But not to help move the market pricing up! When is the government ever going to realize that they don't need to and shouldn't try to control everything? Especially free enterprise!!! Probably never!

Concerned Citizen    
Georgia  |  April, 05, 2013 at 10:43 AM

It sounds like te Tomato Industry Plants to many Tomatoes. Typical government spending waste. The companies that try to fill the contracts should be ashamed. Grocery stores should lower their prices to create demand. The good old fashion way.

R Schultz    
Michigan  |  April, 05, 2013 at 02:06 PM

maybe our Government needs to look on less imports coming in, and/ or charging a little more to countries that want to bring fruits & vegetables into the U.S. but don't have the wage requirements, and compliance issues that we do.

MO  |  April, 05, 2013 at 07:04 PM

These tomatoes are going into feeding assistance programs such as the school lunch program. USDA has been buying fruits and veggies for 50+ years with the primary recipients being schools and such.

Homer Adams    
Moscow, Russian Federation  |  April, 06, 2013 at 01:09 AM

The USA government is picking winners and losers again. This is not capitalism. Let the market place decide - not the USDA. As a capitalist and someone that owns several agriculture enterprises, this makes me very upset. If there is a oversupply of tomatoes, then lower the price or dump product. Do not beg the USA Federal Tax Payer to bail you out. That is very Un-American - well, it use to be. Will the growers give money to the USDA when the price hits a new record?

Chicago, IL  |  April, 07, 2013 at 06:27 PM

Export the tomatoes!!! Sell it to Brazil!!! They had a terrible yield this year and are selling tomatoes in groceries for USD$ 2.50/ lbs. It's their highest price in the last 15 years!!!

Washington  |  April, 08, 2013 at 10:19 AM

I realize this is way off topic, but capitalism is only a dream now. Crony Capitallism is the name of the game now. The FED printing $85 billion per month is the biggest manipuation of free markets going...the cost of money affects everyone.

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