U.S. farmers forced to destroy crops with no demand

Plowing through row after row of leafy lettuce, this tractor at Jack Vessey's ranch in California isn't harvesting any greens this season.

Instead, it's destroying them--as restaurant shutdowns across America continue sending shockwaves through the nation's food supply chain, right down to the produce not yet picked from the fields.

California is the top producer of fruits and vegetables in the U.S.

Vessey estimates this lettuce field alone equaled more than 80,000 cartons of produce now destroyed -- what he says was over a million dollars' worth of food, gone to waste.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) JACK VESSEY, PRESIDENT OF VESSEY AND COMPANY, SAYING:

"What you're seeing here behind me is very difficult - not just for me on the economic side but the emotional side as well. Everybody on this ranch - it's kind of like their blood, sweat, and tears are in this crop. Many hours, many hours away from your family, producing a crop to its maturity and not to see it harvested and being able to feed the nation is stressful and hurtful and emotionally tough."

Deciding to destroy the crops wasn't easy for Vessey.

He was forced to lay off over 150 seasonal workers.

But the farmer says he couldn't justify paying for labor, packaging and storage of a crop that nobody was buying.

President of the Western Growers Association Dave Puglia says

the only solution to this crisis is a federal response that keeps farmers like Vessey in business.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) DAVE PUGLIA, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF WESTERN GROWERS, SAYING:

"There was no way to anticipate that this would happen. If you were a farmer who made this investment, you couldn't have seen this coming. We need federal dollars to help bridge farmers through this moment and let them survive for another season."

Vessey remains hopeful farmers nationwide will pull themselves out of this disaster.

But for now, he'll have to let his leafy greens get shredded into scraps.

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