(UPDATED COVERAGE, July 20) A $23 million U.S. Department of Agriculture bonus purchase of peach products and mixed fruit for federal nutrition assistance programs may be too little, too late for many of the nation’s fresh peach grower-shippers.

The purchase will have only a minor effect on California’s fresh peach grower-shippers, said Gary Van Sickle, president of the Reedley-based California Tree Fruit Agreement.

“We have been pushing the USDA since the third week in April, when we realized how big the national crop would be and how important a bonus buy would be, and to announce as early in the season as possible,” he said.

Of the $23 million purchase, $5 million is a bonus buy of frozen peaches, Van Sickle said, a purchase that will be above and beyond what the USDA would normally buy for school lunch and other programs.

“Theoretically there should be some small value to the fresh producers,” he said.

The frozen peaches will remove from the fresh peach market only a small volume, Van Sickle said.

On July 20, the USDA reported prices for cartons two-layer trays of yellow-flesh peaches from California’s San Joaquin Valley, size 40-42, were lower than the previous week, at $11.10-12.10, but size 40-42 white-flesh varieties were stable at $14.10-15.10.

The cost of growing, harvesting and packing fresh peaches is approaching $14 per carton, grower-shippers said.

The vast majority of California’s fresh peach grower-shippers produce freestone varieties, Van Sickle said. The bulk of the federal purchase is for clingstone varieties, which are grown mostly north of Sacramento and are grown for use in canned products.