USDA Seeks to Improve Supply Chain Resiliency
On April 21, 2021, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) posted a request for comments seeking advice from industry on how to improve the flexibility and strength of food supply chain systems. The request comes in response to an Executive Order from President Biden issued on February 24, 2021 which directs several agencies, including USDA, to prepare a report that assesses the resilience of supply chains and critical manufacturing capacity to produce essential goods, products, and services. USDA notes it also hopes the comments it receives will help inform its thinking on how stimulus relief programs and spending on food can increase the durability of the U.S. food supply.
The notice states USDA is particularly interested in comments addressing local and regional food systems; new market opportunities, such as in value-added products; improving market competition and transparency and traceability of food products; and supporting food accessibility and security of low-income populations. USDA also seeks information regarding food manufacturing and processing, particularly on the geographic distribution of processing, access to transportation and export facilities, cold chain infrastructure and capacity, and access to packaging.
The President issued the executive order in consideration of food and agriculture supply chains that did not quickly adapt to changes in consumer demand early in the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in massive food waste. While the pandemic highlighted major flaws in the supply chain and put a spotlight on food waste, the government has long been concerned with the high percentage of food waste in the United States. As we reported in 2019, approximately 20% of the U.S. food supply is wasted each year, and approximately 40 million Americans are food insecure.