WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on April 21 the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) would start seeking comments on ways to improve and reimagine the supply chain for the production, processing and distribution of agricultural commodities and food products.

The announcement comes following a February executive order by President Joe Biden to look at how to strengthen American supply chains. The request by the USDA was published in the Federal Register and the comment period will close on May 21.

“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,” Vilsack said. “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.”

The agency also said American supply chains are needed to address conditions that reduce critical processing and infrastructure capacity and integrity of critical goods, products and services. The USDA hopes to identify food system supply chain bottlenecks and vulnerabilities. It hopes the comments might provide valuable insights into the competitive and fair market landscape, effects on local and regional producers and processors and equitable access to food and economic opportunity across diverse communities. 

Vilsack and the USDA also want to use this comment period to target pandemic-related stimulus relief programs toward future long-term change that result in chain resiliency.

The agency pointed to boosting local and regional food systems, developing new market opportunities like value-added agriculture products, creating fairer and more competitive markets and meeting the needs of the agricultural workforce.

USDA also wants to support and promote consumers’ nutrition security, especially with low-income populations, address the needs of socially disadvantaged and small to mid-sized producers and advance efforts in other ways to transform the food system.