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A.B. Brown Associate Editor @ FoodDive
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it is planning to invest over $4 billion through the Build Back Better Initiative to make critical supply chains stronger, aid food production and processing, improve food distribution and storage, and ensure equitable market access for food producers.
USDA’s efforts are an attempt to remedy supply chain challenges exposed during the pandemic while also addressing climate change, food access and wages for farmers and workers in the sector. This initiative comes as the Biden administration works to make U.S. supply chains more resilient.
As part of the administration’s broader push, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was appointed co-chair of the newly created Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force that is to provide solutions to immediate supply chain challenges as the economy reopens from the pandemic, with a focus on areas with imbalances in supply and demand. The secretaries of the Department of Commerce and the Department of Transportation also serve as co-chairs of the task force.
The pandemic caused an upheaval of food supply chains. Grocery store shelves went bare with missing items, farmers dumped milk and euthanized animals to cut losses, while facilities were forced to close due to COVID-19 outbreaks. The scene at its height was unprecedented.
USDA’s latest initiative is the government’s response to prevent these sort of disruptions in the future, by investing to make the sector more resilient.
The department estimates the lockdowns during the pandemic caused foodservice traffic to fall by more than 80% as businesses stopped buying. With its initiative, USDA seeks to boost local food production and ensure markets are fair for producers. That entails creating better funding opportunities for current and future farmers, and improving infrastructure so that produce can be delivered in a timely manner.
“The food system didn’t break, but it did break down and we must work to prevent that from happening again,” a spokesperson for USDA said in an email.
In February, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that mandated a 100-day review of supply chains to advance his policy to secure increased domestic production and ensure adequate stockpiles, security and related workforce. A White House report released this month outlined how the administration envisions reshoring critical supply chains to meet its resilience goals.
The Build Back Better Initiative is the action plan to “rescue, recover, and rebuild the country,” according to the White House website. The three-part agenda includes the American Rescue Plan, already passed by Congress, and plans that tackle issues facing American jobs and families.
“The Build Back Better initiative will make meaningful investments to build a food system that is more resilient against shocks, delivers greater value to growers and workers, and offers consumers an affordable selection of healthy food produced and sourced locally and regionally by farmers and processors from diverse backgrounds,” Vilsack said in the press release.