( Photo courtesy Markus Spiske; Source Unsplash )

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is planning on buying $470 million in surplus food, including $105 million worth of produce, as growers cope with disrupted supply chains during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A USDA news release doesn’t specify if the purchases, “determined by industry experts, market analysis and food bank needs,” will be fresh. The purchases, which will happen July-September, include:

  • Asparagus: $5 million;
  • Pears:  $5 million;
  • Potatoes: $50 million
  • Strawberries: $35 million; and
  • Sweet potatoes: $10 million.

The purchases are through Section 32 funds, raised through customs receipts on imported products, and designed to help growers and ranchers sell excess food.

“President Trump has authorized USDA to support our farmers affected by this national emergency and this action to purchase food and deliver to those in need further demonstrates his unwavering support for the American people during these unprecedented times,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in the release. “America’s farmers and ranchers have experienced a dislocated supply chain caused by the coronavirus.”

The planned purchases also include other fruit products that are more shelf-stable than fresh:

  • Orange juice: $25 million;
  • Tart cherries: $20 million;
  • Prunes: $5 million; and
  • Raisins: $15 million.
  • The remainder of the purchases are for dairy, fish and meat products.

The USDA will ask for bids in June and begin deliveries in July.

The USDA said Section 32 purchases will be provided to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service nutrition assistance programs, including food banks that operate The Emergency Food Assistance Program.

The purchases are in addition to the $300 million a month — including $100 million per month for fresh produce — allocated for the six-month Farmers to Families Produce Box program,