AFTER VISITING ROCHESTER’S HICKEY FREEMAN EARLIER THIS YEAR, SCHUMER CALLS AGRICULTURE SECRETARY VILSACK DIRECTLY TO URGE THE USDA TO RELEASE DESPERATELY NEEDED PANDEMIC RELIEF PAYMENTS TO WOOL TRUST FUND RECIPIENTS; $$$ WOULD PROVIDE MUCH NEEDED BOOST TO DOMESTIC TEXTILE MANUFACTURERS LIKE HICKEY FREEMAN AND SUPPORT RECENTLY ANNOUNCED 100 JOB EXPANSION
American Textile Factories, Like Hickey Freeman, Stepped Up During The Pandemic To Manufacture Critical PPE For Their Community While Facing Tremendous Economic Losses
Schumer In Personal Call With Secretary Of Agriculture Says Pandemic Relief Payments To Wool Trust Fund Recipients, Like Hickey Freeman, Should Be Released ASAP To Get These Companies On The Road To Recovery
Schumer: USDA Must Help Patch Up The Significant Losses Faced By Textile Industry, Give Hickey Freeman The Support They Need To Continue To Grow And Support 100 New Jobs
Following his visit earlier this year to announce 100 new jobs after fighting for years to keep the Hickey Freeman factory in business, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer made a personal call to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary, Tom Vilsack, to urge the USDA to provide pandemic relief payments to domestic textile manufacturers like Hickey Freeman, which have sustained tremendous pandemic-induced losses. On the call, Schumer said Congress has already allocated funds under the CARES Act so the USDA would have the necessary resources to offer support to an array of business impacted by the pandemic and that the USDA can use this funding to aid the domestic textile industry, including companies like Hickey Freeman, as it recovers from the pandemic.
“Companies like Hickey Freeman stepped up to help their communities in the pandemic while facing tremendous economic losses. That’s why I called Agriculture Secretary Vilsack to urge him to use the funding in the CARES Act to provide desperately needed relief to domestic textile manufacturers like Hickey Freeman,” said Senator Schumer. “This funding, in tandem with recent wins like my Make PPE In America Act in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, would provide critical support for the continued growth of this 122-year-old Rochester icon. I will continue to fight tooth and nail so that Hickey Freeman can fully recover and maintain their robust presence in Rochester.”
Stephen Granovsky, CEO of Hickey Freeman parent company Rochester Tailored Clothing said, “The last 20 months have been a tremendously challenging time for our factory and employees. To restore our company to health and compete successfully, we appreciate the support of Senator Schumer, who has so many times before answered our call and worked tirelessly on our behalf. Hickey Freeman is once again leading our industry and we are forever thankful to the Senator.”
Schumer explained that companies like Hickey Freeman are recipients of the USDA’s Wool Trust Fund which compensates the domestic suit industry for the competitive disadvantage that results from an unfair “tariff inversion” where the duty on the imported finished product is lower than the duty on the inputs used to make the product here at home. The program is essential to put companies like Hickey Freeman back on a level playing field with overseas suit competitors who import suits into the U.S. without ever having to pay the same wool duties as U.S. suit producers. Without the Wool Trust Fund, Hickey Freeman’s overseas competitors would have an unfair leg-up while putting our own U.S. manufacturers like Hickey Freeman in the lurch for making suits in the USA.
During the pandemic, however, the industry was hit hard by decreased consumer spending, cancelled formal events, and shifts in demand. Thus, Schumer said additional support beyond what the Trust Fund can provide is needed to protect the domestic market, allow companies to recover from the pandemic, and help businesses, like Hickey Freeman, expand and create new jobs.
Schumer said the CARES Act included additional funds to the USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC), which can be used to assist industries as they continues to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic and that the USDA should use this funding to support the domestic textile industry, including companies like Hickey Freeman.
Schumer has long fought to keep Hickey Freeman in business in Rochester. In 2009, when Hickey Freeman’s parent company at the time, Hartmarx, declared bankruptcy, threatening a liquidation and closure of the Rochester factory, Schumer led the charge to save this factory. Schumer successfully urged Hartmarx’s creditor, Wells Fargo, to continue providing Hartmarx with the credit they needed to continue manufacturing jobs in Rochester, saving hundreds of jobs. Ultimately, in 2012 Schumer helped save Hickey Freeman from bankruptcy, by shepherding a deal that allowed Grano Retail’s Luxury Men’s Apparel Group (LMAG), in partnership with Hickey Freeman Brand owner Authentic Brands Group (ABG) to take over the Hickey Freeman Rochester factory in 2013. In the time since, Schumer support helped LMAG and Hickey Freeman secure new contracts to manufacture suits for Dillard’s Department Store as well as for Ralph Lauren’s Blue Label line of Polo suits and sports jackets, and even for Hickey Freeman to help produce clothing for the 2016 Team USA Olympic Team.
In 2014, Schumer was instrumental to first secure legislation in that year’s federal Farm Bill to extend the Wool Trust Fund’s authorization for five years through 2019 and to secondly restore adequate trust fund payment levels to address several years when the Trust was underfunded. In December 2018, Schumer secured the provision in the Federal Farm Bill that fully funded the federal Wool Trust Fund program through 2023 which saves Hickey Freeman as much as $3 million a year in relief from unfair tariffs. The Wool Trust Fund was set to expire in 2019, and while the House of Representatives’ version of the Farm Bill included a provision to extend the trust fund until 2023 it also called for the Fund to be cut by 50% which would have jeopardized the viability of Rochester’s Hickey Freeman factory. Fortunately, Schumer secured a provision in the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill and in the final bill that was signed into law in December 2018 that not only extended the Trust Fund program until 2023, but also fully funded it at 100%. As a result of these efforts, Hickey Freeman’s Rochester factory is one of the few remaining US-based suit and apparel manufacturers.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to Secretary Vilsack sent earlier this year appears below:
Dear Secretary Vilsack,
I am writing to ask that the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide additional support for domestic manufacturers of tailored clothing and wool and cotton textile products. These manufacturers and producers have faced incredible challenges over the past year and a half and I urge USDA to use its existing authority and funding through the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) to assist this industry as it continues to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.
As you know, the Pima Agriculture Cotton and Agriculture Wool Apparel Manufacturers Trust Fund programs were established to support the domestic textile industry, including companies in New York State like Hickey Freeman Tailored Clothing and Martin Greenfield Clothiers, and level the playing field to ensure domestic manufacturers and their U.S. workforce could compete against foreign manufacturers. Past support from the Trust Funds has been invaluable to the domestic textile industry. However, during the pandemic the industry was hit hard by decreased consumer spending, cancelled formal events, and shifts in demand. Additional support beyond what the Trust Funds can provide is needed to protect the domestic market, allow companies to recover from the pandemic, and help businesses expand into new markets.
I urge you to use a portion of the CCC funding to help fill this gap. The CCC can be used to expand or develop new domestic markets and increase domestic consumption of agricultural commodities. At the offset of the pandemic, Congress allocated additional funds for the CCC under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act so USDA would have the necessary resources to offer support to agricultural producers impacted by the pandemic. Using this funding to support the domestic textile industry as it recovers from the pandemic would be consistent with this goal.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has both the authority and the funding to provide essential relief to this hard-hit industry. I ask that you seriously consider disbursing payments through the CCC to ensure domestic manufacturers and producers receive the support they need to recover from the devastating impacts of the pandemic by specifically making a payment in an amount equal to the greater of what the Trust Fund recipient companies received in 2019 or 2020.
Thank you for your attention to this important matter and if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact my staff.
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