USDA undertakes ‘top to bottom assessment’ to identify, repair ‘supply chain-bottlenecks and vulnerabilities”

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Getty/ metamorworks
Source: Getty/ metamorworks

Related tags Supply chain Food security Food waste food insecurity

The US Department of Agriculture is asking for help conducting a “top to bottom assessment” of the US food system in an effort to avoid the empty store shelves, food waste at farms and destruction for animals due to broken supply chains experienced in the early days of the pandemic.

In an April 21 Federal Register notice​, USDA asks manufacturers, agriculture players and other industry stakeholders for suggestions on how to create new market opportunities and develop value-added agriculture and finished products, facilitate fair and competitive markets that are transparent and traceable, better meet the needs of the agriculture workforce, promote nutrition security and support socially disadvantaged and small to mid-sized producers and processors.

The agency also seeks comments on how best to “target pandemic-related stimulus relief programs,”​ outlined in the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the American Rescue Plan Act to drive “long term, systemic change that results in food supply chain resiliency,”​ according to the notice.

The comments, which are due May 21, will help USDA assess “the critical factors, risks and strategies needed to support resilient, diverse and secure supply chains and ensure US economic prosperity, national security and nutrition security for all Americans,”​ according to the agency.

The request comes the behest of President Biden, who asked in an executive ordered signed Feb. 24​ that agencies across that government assess supply chain resiliency and identify ways to “revitalize and rebuild domestic manufacturing capacity”​ to “maintain America’s competitive edge in research and development and create well-paying jobs.”

The executive order explained that pandemics, like the current threat of COVID-19, and other biological threats, extreme weather events, cyber- and terrorist-attacks and geopolitical and economic competition can strain and weaken manufacturing and availability of critical products and services, as experienced last year.

“To ensure our economic prosperity and national security … it is the policy of my Administration to strengthen the resilience of America’s supply chains,”​ Biden wrote in the order.

To do this, he asked select agencies, including USDA, to report back within 100 days on how to reinforce, rebuild and improve supply chains.

Applying lessons-learned from the pandemic

For its part, “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-sized producers, to supporting sustainable practices to advance resilience and competitiveness,”​ agency secretary Tom Vilsack said in a written statement.

He added: “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.”

By undertaking this review, USDA hopes to create 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,”​ according to the agency.

Details on the information that USDA seeks by May 21 and how to submit comments are outlined in the Federal Register notice​.

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