USDA to invest $4 billion in America's food systems

Wisconsin State Farmer
FILE - In this Dec. 11, 2020, file photo former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who the Biden administration chose to reprise that role, speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced June 8 that the department will invest $4 billion into federal, state and local programs to get the country's food systems back on track.

The new Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, of which Vilsack was appointed co-chair, will guide the efforts to "diagnose" and resolve the country's numerous bottlenecks in the supply chain, especially in food and agriculture, including the labor crisis.

Vilsack said the funding would focus on four areas: production, processing, distribution and markets. The move is part of the Biden administration's "Build Back Better" initiative. President Biden's sign-off on Executive Order 14017, which aims to provide support to the country's supply chain, on Feb. 24 this year also ties in to the overall goal of stabilizing the US supply chain, Vilsack added.

"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 a press release. "I am confident USDA’s investments will spur billions more in leveraged funding from the private sector and others as this initiative gains traction across the country."

It's not yet known how the funding will be divvied up because Vilsack said there's research needed first on where the need is most critical, especially in where processors need support. He said his department plans to reach out to state and local governments and gauge their interest in the funding. The investment also seeks to create more equity for both consumers and industry stakeholders.

USDA also recently announced a $1 billion purchase of food supplies for food-insecure Americans after the expiration of the pandemic-born Farmers to Families Food Box Program, raising the total investment to $5 billion.