Jun 4, 2022
Vilsack announces USDA initiative to transform food systems

On June 2 at Georgetown University, Secretary Vilsack announced a series of programs from USDA to address supply chain disruptions and transform U.S. food systems. USDA stated that its framework “seeks to increase the productivity of the food supply chain and transform the food system to be fairer, more competitive, and more resilient.” Among the numerous programs and proposals, the following recommendations were announced this week:

Up to $600 million in financial assistance to support food supply chain infrastructure aimed at independently owned and available infrastructure such as cold storage, refrigerated trucks, and processing facilities are in short supply but essential to creating a more resilient food system. USDA will make investments to address the limited processing, distribution, storage, and aggregation capacity for a variety of food sectors, including high equipment costs, lack of competition, and limited supply chain and value chain coordination.

Additional $40 million in the GusNIP Produce Prescriptions Program. This program funds projects that demonstrate and evaluate the impacts of fresh produce prescriptions to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, improve health, and reduce food insecurity. Since launching this program following the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, demand has increased by 30 percent each year.

Up to $90 million to prevent and reduce food loss and waste. USDA will invest an additional $30 million in the Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction Program and will fund a feasibility study and corresponding actions that will support a National Food Loss and Waste Strategy.

The announcement was met with support and concern from Capitol Hill. Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) said “I’m pleased Secretary Vilsack is implementing my supply chain provisions to lower costs, and build a food systems that is fairer for consumers and better for the man and women who power our food economy.”

However, AgriPulse reported that “the top Republicans on the House and Senate Ag committees laid into Vilsack’s plan in separate statements Wednesday afternoon.

“Increasing spending on organic initiatives and rooftop gardens while placing misguided blame on corporations and agribusinesses will not increase domestic food production,” said Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson.

His counterpart on the Senate Ag Committee, John Boozman of Arkansas, said the plan represented “misplaced priorities and wishful thinking.” “Much of this ‘framework’ is merely a repackaging of previously announced initiatives that will receive one-time funding provided for COVID relief,” Boozman said.

Click here for a list of USDA’s new investments across the supply chain as a part of this framework.

– National Potato Council


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