American Textile Factories, Like Hickey Freeman, Stepped Up During Pandemic To Manufacture Critical PPE While Facing Tremendous Economic Losses; Delayed Wool Trust Fund Payment Put Their Recovery & Growth At Risk

Schumer Made A Personal Call To Agriculture Secretary To Get Relief Payments Back On Track For Wool & Cotton Trust Fund Recipients To Recuperate Pandemic Losses

Schumer: New Cotton and Wool Apparel Program Will Patch Up American Textile Manufacturers Budgetary Holes Ripped From Pandemic

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced that following his direct advocacy the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will stand up a new grant program for Wool & Cotton Trust Fund participants to bolster economic aid to domestic textile manufacturers, like Rochester’s Hickey Freeman, which have sustained tremendous pandemic-induced losses. The new Cotton and Wool Apparel Program (CAWA) will provide crucial relief to compensate American manufacturers and cotton and wool spinners for their competitive disadvantage against foreign competitors and help them recover from the pandemic. Schumer wrote directly to and made a personal call to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, to urge increased assistance for domestic textile manufacturers and an end to bureaucratic delays and now thanks to his advocacy New York companies like Rochester’s iconic Hickey Freeman will be eligible for crucial economic relief.

“With the new Cotton and Wool Apparel Program now up and running,  we are one step closer to sewing shut the holes American textile manufacturers like Rochester’s Hickey Freeman heroically ripped in their budget to manufacture PPE for their community, while suffering tremendous economic losses due to the pandemic. I am thankful that Agriculture Secretary Vilsack heeded my call and stood up a new program to ensure our domestic textile manufacturers receive the support they need to rebound from the pandemic and remain competitive with companies overseas,” said Senator Schumer. “I will always fight to strengthen America’s manufacturers and will continue to fight so top-notch New York companies like Hickey Freeman in Rochester receive the critical relief they need to continue to grow.”

Stephen Granovsky, CEO of Hickey Freeman parent company Rochester Tailored Clothing said, “We appreciate Senator Schumer’s continued support of our factory and employees throughout the tremendously challenging pandemic period.  Enabling domestic manufacturers including our Rochester factory to recover and compete successfully is vital to sustain this important industry.”   

Schumer explained that companies like Hickey Freeman are eligible 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. Now, thanks to Schumer’s advocacy USDA has created a new grant program for Wool Trust Fund recipients called the Cotton and Wool Apparel Program, giving companies like Hickey Freeman the opportunity to apply for economic relief.

The $50 million Cotton and Wool Apparel Program will directly support cotton and wool apparel manufacturers and will indirectly support Pima cotton and wool producers. Current Wool and Cotton Trust Fund participants that can demonstrate a 15% decline in gross sales or consumption of eligible products compared to pre-pandemic levels will be eligible to apply via a simplified application process. Additional information on the program is available on the USDA website

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 working with new owners that kept the Rochester factory in business.

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 original letter to Secretary Vilsack 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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