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Coronavirus crisis crippling Florida farmers

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Posted at 11:01 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-15 11:00:28-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — The coronavirus is crippling farmers across Florida as demand for locally-grown perishables dries up.

With schools, theme parks and restaurants scaling back or shutting down, many growers are left with no where to sell their product.

"Nobody has ever experienced anything like this in our lifetimes," said Tony DiMare, owner of family-owned and operated DiMare Fresh. "When those sectors shut down three weeks ago during this pandemic, it brought our industry to its knees."

DiMare tells ABC Action News, he was forced to leave 10 million pounds of crops unharvested, costing his operation millions of dollars.

DiMare says imports are an additional sting to the already bruised industry. A 25-pound box of tomatoes that sold for $16 to $18 before the pandemic is now selling for as little as $5.

"This is a time where we as Americans need to band together, support the American grower and the Florida growers right now," he said.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced Thursday the launch of Florida Farm to You, a website connecting potential buyers with farmers and producers of Florida-grown commodities like fresh produce, seafood, poultry, and more.

By emailing FLFarmToYou@FDACS.gov, Florida farmers can have their available products listed. Buyers, food banks, and consumers can directly connect with growers selling these products using contact information on the list.

"We have worked tirelessly to support Florida’s farmers during COVID-19 by connecting them with buyers and consumers, and our Florida Farm To You commodities list is the latest way we’re doing so," said Commissioner Nikki Fried. "There’s no silver bullet to solving the decreased demand from foodservice businesses, but by connecting our agricultural producers with willing takers, we can help move Florida-grown products from fields to consumers."