The U.S. Department of Agriculture has issued an intent to terminate a contract with one of the larger contracts awarded in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.
On May 8, the USDA announced that Escondido, Calif.-based Ben Holtz Consulting, doing business as California Avocados Direct, secured a $40 million contract to distribute fresh produce boxes to food banks and other charities in the southwest U.S.
On May 21, Holtz said the USDA informed him of the agency’s intent to terminate the contract.
“I’m fighting it because I have got the financing, I have got the growers, I have the trucks sitting there ready to go,” he said.
Soon after winning the award, Holtz asked for an advance on the contract. He said that was apparently one of the reasons the USDA said it intended to terminate the contract award.
“They just decided at their convenience that they wanted to pull the plug on me,” he said. “And I’m like, wait a minute here; you didn’t talk to me for six days and now this,” he said.
Calling the sudden reversal the “worst prank ever,” Holtz said the USDA has acted in bad faith toward him. The USDA could not immediately be reached for comment the afternoon of May 21.
The USDA has faced industry criticism and consumer media scrutiny over some of the contract awards in the Farmers to Families Food Box program, including awards to firms that had no PACA license and little to no infrastructure to handle big numbers of produce boxes that are supposed to be delivered by the end of June.