Government Relations & Washington Update
Senate Confirms USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics
On June 7th, the Senate overwhelmingly voted (95-4) to confirm the nomination of Dr. Chavonda Jacobs-Young as USDA Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics (REE). As REE Under Secretary, Jacobs-Young will oversee the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), Economic Research Service (ERS), National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). In this role, Jacobs-Young will also serve as USDA’s Chief Scientist. Jacobs-Young has held numerous leadership positions within USDA including most recently serving as acting deputy undersecretary for REE, acting USDA chief scientist, and administrator for the Agricultural Research Service. She is also the former acting director of NIFA. AAEA joined nearly 100 industry groups and stakeholders in expressing support for her nomination.
USDA Announces Framework to Strengthen Food Supply Chain and Transform Food System
On June 1st, USDA announced the establishment of a framework to transform the food system to benefit consumers, producers and rural communities by providing more options, increasing access, and creating new, more, and better markets for small and mid-size producers. USDA has stated their intention to do this by building more resilient local and regional food production, fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. The announcement builds on investments in programs developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is intended to address ongoing supply chain disruptions.
The goals of USDA’s Food System Transformation framework include:
- Building a more resilient food supply chain that provides more and better market options for consumers and producers while reducing carbon pollution.
- Creating a fairer food system that combats market dominance and helps producers and consumers gain more power in the marketplace by creating new, more and better local market options.
- Making nutritious food more accessible and affordable for consumers.
- Emphasizing equity.
Specific additional investments include:
- Investment of up to $100 million to support development of a pipeline of well-trained workers and safe workplaces in the processing sector.
- $200 million for Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program for specialty crop operations that incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses.
- Up to $600 million in financial assistance to support food supply chain infrastructure that is not covered by the meat and poultry processing program.
- Investment of $400 million to create regional food business centers that will provide coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building support to small and mid-size food and farm businesses, particularly focused on processing, distribution and aggregation, and market access challenges.
- Investing $60 million to leverage increased commodity purchases through Farm-to-School. Farm-to-school programs are a proven model of increasing markets for farmers via child nutrition programs while also providing children healthy, fresh food.
- Investing up to $90 million to prevent and reduce food loss and waste. The United States wasted $408 billion worth of food in 2019 – more than a third of the total U.S. food supply.
- Increase funding to the Healthy Food Financing Initiative by $155 million.
- An additional $50 million in the Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.
- An additional $40 million in the GusNIP Produce Prescriptions Program.
- $25 million to support SNAP technology improvements to modernize the delivery of incentive programs through SNAP’s electronic benefit transfer (EBT) technology.
- $100 million to create a new Healthy Food Incentive Fund, which will support school food authorities to innovate and accelerate their efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school meals to children.