( USDA )

(UPDATED Aug. 27) President Trump has added $1 billion to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program and extended it beyond the end of October.

The White House announced the development Aug. 24 when Trump, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and presidential advisor Ivanka Trump toured Flavor 1st Growers and Packers, River Mills, N.C. The company has been packing and distributing food boxes through the program.

“From day one, my administration has been determined to protect our nation’s incredible farmers,” Trump said in a news release about the $1 billion addition.

The program originally authorized $3 billion for the boxes and is expected to spend a total of $2.67 billion from mid-May through the end of August, covering the first two rounds of the program. The application process for a third round for $500 million to $700 million was announced July 24, and those contracts go through Oct. 31.

As of Aug. 27, 74.5 million boxes had been distributed, according to the USDA.

The boxes of fresh produce, dairy and meat have gone to more than 10,000 food banks and nonprofit organizations. In addition, the White House said thousands of jobs have been saved or created, according to the release, including more than 5,000 in the food distribution industry.

On Aug. 25, the USDA published a list of companies whose Basic Ordering Agreements (BOAs) have been approved for the third round of awards.  All of the 47 companies plan to pack combination boxes of produce, milk/dairy products and cooked meat; the USDA said it would allow produce-only boxes but would place a priority on the combination boxes.

The BOAs are part of a two-step process for USDA approval in the program, and are designed to ensure the distributors and intended food bank/nonprofit recipients have agreements about how the distribution will take place. It will also ensure that regions of the country that didn’t receive adequate food boxes will be prioritized.

“PMA applauds the commitment from the administration to extend funding to the program and will share more details about the program as they become available,” Richard Owen, vice president of global membership and engagement at the Produce Marketing Association, said in a news release.

In a LinkedIn update to members, United Fresh Produce Association president and CEO Tom Stenzel praised the move.
“We commend the administration for taking this important step to continue this win-win-win program for farmers, distributors and families in need,” Stenzel said in the statement.

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