WASHINGTON — Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced April 21 that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking comments on a Department-wide effort to improve and reimagine the supply chains for the production, processing and distribution of agricultural commodities and food products. USDA is taking this action in response to Executive Order 14017, America’s Supply Chains, signed by President Biden on Feb. 24, 2021. The request for comments was published April 21 in the Federal Register and the comment period will close on May 21, 2021.
The comments received will help USDA assess the critical factors, risks, and strategies needed to support resilient, diverse, and secure supply chains and ensure U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and nutrition security for all Americans. Such supply chains are needed to address conditions that can reduce critical processing and infrastructure capacity and the availability and integrity of critical goods, products, and services. Identifying food system supply chain-bottlenecks and vulnerabilities also may provide valuable insights into the competitive and fair markets landscape, effects on local and regional producers and processors, and equitable access to food and economic opportunity across diverse communities. USDA will use the comments to prepare a report required by Executive Order 14017.
“We have an opportunity to take the lessons we’ve learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and apply those to transforming our nation’s food system from the inside out, including our supply chains,” said Vilsack. “USDA plans to tackle this supply chain assessment holistically – looking across a full range of risks and opportunities. From elevating the importance of local and regional food systems, to addressing the needs of socially disadvantaged and small to mid-size producers, to supporting sustainable practices to advance resilience and competitiveness, this top to bottom assessment will position USDA to make long-term, transformative changes for economic, national, and nutritional security.”
In addition to asking about the agricultural supply chain, USDA is interested in comments about how to target pandemic-related stimulus relief programs and spending authorized by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act (CAA) and American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) toward long term, systemic change that results in food supply chain resiliency. In particular, the request for comment seeks input on—
- bolstering local and regional food systems,
- developing new market opportunities (including for value-added agriculture and products),
- creating fairer and more competitive markets,
- meeting the needs of the agricultural workforce,
- supporting and promoting consumers’ nutrition security, particularly for low-income populations,
- addressing the needs of socially disadvantaged and small to mid-sized producers, and
- advancing efforts in other ways to transform the food system.
USDA is undertaking this effort to strengthen U.S. competitiveness with attention to our farmers, ranchers, producers, food processors, and other important links in the food supply chain. Under Secretary Vilsack’s leadership, USDA is helping to accelerate a transformation of our food system. Goals of this transformation include a fairer, more competitive, and transparent system where a greater share of the food dollar goes to those growing, harvesting, and preparing our food and one that promotes and strengthens the overall health and well-being of people, our land and water, and our economy. Growing consolidation in food and agriculture, the general health of our population, a growing climate crisis, and the need to ensure racial justice and equity are important factors to take into consideration as USDA looks at strengthening food and agricultural supply chains.
The deadline for comments is May 21, 2021. More information about how to submit comments in is available in the Notice.