USDA announces new investments in food system resilience and competition

The US Department of Agriculture is making major investments in resilience and competitiveness for the nation’s food system. These investments follow supply chain challenges and other issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic and, more recently, Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

In a June 1 speech, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a framework that includes more funding in production, processing, distribution and aggregation, markets and consumers.

“We want to get out of our food system a bit. And indeed, we have created this incredibly effective food system. The problem was that he had to be resilient,” Vilsack said.

One way to balance resilience and efficiency is to build more local and regional food systems, in addition to the broader national system, he said. Transforming the food system could help farmers continue to produce while adapting to climate change, create better markets for farmers and ranchers as well as consumers, and improve access to food in the United States and around the world. the world through exports.

But to get there, changes need to affect a range of things, including food production, processing, distribution and market development, he said.

Production

Investments in food production include up to $300 million for a new organic transition initiative. The initiative will help farmers transition to organic systems through technical assistance, mentorship, financial assistance for conservation, crop insurance assistance, and market development projects.

“The process of becoming an organic producer is complicated and financially challenging, especially during the early days of transition when expenses can be high and income limited,” Vilsack said.

The USDA is also investing an additional $75 million in urban agriculture. Part of this sum will be used to finance competitive subsidies for urban agriculture.

Only about 6% of all USDA urban agriculture competitive grant applications received funding in 2020 and 2021. $20 million of the funding will go to a backlog of applications, and the USDA will increase available funds for 2022 of 10 million dollars.

Treatment

Challenges with processing, especially meat and poultry processing, became very evident at the start of the pandemic. Because the industry is so consolidated, it is easy for bottlenecks to form.

To address this, the USDA has already made several investments in local processing and announced several more on June 1.

They include $100 million for meat processing workforce training, $200 million for specialty crop food safety certification and $600 million to support chain infrastructure. food supply such as cold stores, refrigerated trucks and processing facilities.

Distribution

Investments in distribution and aggregation include $400 million to create regional food business hubs. These centers would offer things like technical assistance to small and medium-sized food and agricultural businesses.

They also include $60 million for more produce purchases through Farm-to-School and $90 million to reduce food loss and waste.

Consumers

Funding for markets and consumers includes an additional $155 million for the Healthy Foods Funding Initiative, $50 million for the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program, $40 million for the GusNIP Produce Prescriptions Program, $25 million to support improvements to SNAP technology and $100 million to create a new Healthy Eating Challenge Fund.

The new fund would support schools’ efforts to make school meals more nutritious. These programs would all support access to healthy food, especially for underserved communities.

“The pandemic and resulting inflation caused by supply chain disruptions and Putin’s war on Ukraine underscores the difficulty of providing safe and nutritious food for all when markets are disrupted,” he said. said Vilsack.

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