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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 2, 2005

Schumer, Clinton Welcome Decision By USDA To Help New York’s Cherry Growers

USDA to announce plan today to purchase up to 15 million pounds of tart cherries to be donated to child nutrition and other domestic food assistance programs

Senators had urged USDA to purchase red tart cherries from New York growers to help deal with looming surplus

U.S. Senators Charles E. Schumer and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton today welcomed a decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help New York cherry growers who are facing a potential surplus crop that would have gone to waste unless otherwise purchased. The USDA’s decision follows the direct urging earlier this week by the Senators for the USDA to purchase red tart cherries from local cherry growers for use in nutrition programs such as the Federal School Lunch Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program.

It is expected that the USDA will announce today that it plans to purchase up to 15 million pounds of tart cherries nationwide in finished product form to be donated to child nutrition and other domestic food assistance programs.

In a letter to USDA Secretary Johanns earlier this week, the Senators urged him to consider the purchase by the end of the year in order to remove surplus cherries from storage in advance of the 2006 cherry crop, which will be ready in just a few months. Such a federal purchase, they said, would not only protect cherry growers in New York, but would provide nutritious fruit for millions of Americans who rely on USDA’s nutrition programs.

“This is great news for cherry growers in New York State,” Senator Schumer said. “Farmers are already stretched so thin, and we must do everything we can to help them out. The USDA has really stepped up to the challenge of dealing with a surplus cherry crop, and will be using the excess for school food programs. This is a win-win for New York farmers and communities.”

“This will be a great holiday gift for New York’s cherry growers. They are facing excess stock of a very precious but perishable commodity. It was critical that we acted immediately to assist them,” Senator Clinton said. “This is also a gift to children and needy families and I am glad the USDA has seen the very real needs of both our cherry growers and our children and approved this purchase.”

A copy of the Senators’ letter is attached:

November 30, 2005

The Honorable Mike Johanns
Secretary
United States Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20250

Dear Secretary Johanns:

We request that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) purchase red tart cherries for use in nutrition programs such as the Federal School Lunch Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program. We further request that this purchase be made before the end of the year in order to remove surplus cherries from storage in advance of the 2006 cherry crop, which will be ready in just a few months, and to give the industry time to dry the cherries for USDA’s use.

Specifically, we request that USDA purchase 667,000 units of frozen 5+1, 250,000 units of IQF, and 312,500 units of dried cherries.

A timely purchase is a win-win for cherry growers in Michigan and New York and for the nutrition programs that are so important to millions of Americans. The cherry industry has an unmanageable surplus of red tart cherries and growers need to sell the surplus as soon as possible to preserve orderly pricing for the 2006 crop. A federal purchase of red tart cherries will provide school children and families in need with a healthy and popular fruit.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request. We look forward to working with you to ensure a healthy crop year for American cherry growers and ensuring that needy families are provided with nutritious diets. Please keep our offices updated on your decision and any purchase plans.

Sincerely,

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