Exclusive with Agriculture Sec. Sonny Perdue: The latest on America’s food supply

Published: May. 16, 2020 at 12:06 PM EDT

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - The meat is missing from store shelves.

Back in March, when many Americans were worried about toilet paper shortages, we wondered, "Is food next?"

Gray Television Washington Bureau Chief Jacqueline Policastro took that concern to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on March 19.

When asked in that March 19 interview, "Is there enough food to feed the American people, and what are you doing to make sure that food stays on the shelves?”

Perdue replied, "The good news is, Jacqueline - there is enough food.”

But now, there is a shortage, which has led to the sharpest increase in grocery store prices in nearly 50 years.

In a new interview with Perdue on May 15, Policastro asked, "When can we expect prices to go down again?"

Perdue responded, "When we return to back to normal, I think we'll see prices level out. There's been tremendous demand."

Policastro also asked Perdue about meat processing plants having to shut down.

"How are they doing with the reopening process? Is everything safe?" she asked.

Perdue replied, "This good news is those workers are coming back. The conditions over safety and health for the workers are paramount. But certainly, we need to keep them healthy so they keep us healthy."

And then, there's the beginning of the supply chain — our farmers. There are reports of crops rotting and hogs being euthanized. With restaurants closed, farmers are having trouble selling their goods.

The USDA is buying up to $3 billion dollars worth of food from wholesalers to give to food banks and non-profits. It’s called the Farmers to Families Food Box Program.

The hope is that it will help everyone from farmers to people who are hungry.

When asked if it was enough to prevent the throwing away of unused crops, Perdue replied, “Well, we hope so. It’s an exciting new program... $3 billion is a pretty big slush there, and we’re going to move forward and do the best job we can.”

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