It’s been one year since the Biden-Harris Administration took office. As a result of this anniversary, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reflected on the accomplishments of the Department of Agriculture.
The Biden-Harris Administration immediately went to work on addressing supply chain disruptions the agricultural sector experienced during the pandemic and identified a wide range of improvements that will produce a more diversified food system that more fairly serves farmers, ranchers and consumers.
“The pandemic has been tragic and heartbreaking for our communities and families, but the disruptions it caused provided an extraordinarily rare opportunity to identify and address foundational vulnerabilities in our food system,” Vilsack said. “In order to address these foundational issues as we build back better, we went to work to fundamentally change and improve America’s food system to create more, better and fairer markets for producers and consumers alike.”
“Disruptions the pandemic caused to the agricultural sector highlighted the need for our nation’s food system to be more diversified, thereby creating more options for producers and consumers and enhancing the resiliency of the food supply chain. The Biden-Harris Administration is focusing historic resources on addressing the fundamental challenges the pandemic exposed,” Vilsack said.
Key USDA accomplishments during 2021 include:
Creating a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain:
- The Biden-Harris Administration is dedicating $1 billion in American Rescue Plan funds for expansion of independent processing capacity. Among the benefits this effort will provide are expanding and diversifying meat and poultry processing capacity, increasing producer income, providing producers an opportunity to have ownership in processing facilities and creating stable, good-paying jobs in rural regions.
- USDA has provided $32 million in grants through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grants Program to 167 existing meat and poultry processing facilities to help them reach more customers by becoming Federally inspected through the Meat and Poultry Inspection Readiness Grants Program.
- In August 2021, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued two new Market News reports for the cattle industry providing additional information on formula transactions, which represent a growing percentage of cattle trade. These reports have been well received by industry and bring additional clarity to the marketplace, especially for cattle producers and feeders. This action is one piece of USDA’s efforts to deliver on President Biden’s Executive Order 14036 on Promoting Competition in the American Economy, which directed USDA to “enhance price discovery, increase transparency, and improve the functioning of the cattle and other livestock markets.”
Expanding and Preserving Markets for American Agriculture:
- Trade remains a critical engine powering the farm economy and our international trading partners are responding favorably to a return to certainty and reliability from the United States. As a result, the United States exported a record $172.2 billion in farm and food products in fiscal year 2021, up 23 percent from 2020. Our top 10 markets all saw gains and China regained its spot as our largest market, with a record $33.4 billion in agricultural purchases – nearly double the 2020 total. Worldwide exports of many U.S. products, including corn, soybeans, beef, and horticultural products, also set new records.
- Producers, processors, exporters, and rural communities have all benefited, with each $1 billion in U.S. agricultural exports stimulating another $1.14 billion in domestic economic activity and supporting more than 7,700 full-time civilian jobs. That means exports support more than 1.3 million American jobs, not just on the farm but also in related industries such as food processing and transportation.
- While USDA devoted considerable resources to addressing the coronavirus pandemic, it was USDA’s efforts to address a different viral threat that helped ensure that markets vital for America’s swine producers remained open. USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) closely monitored the global spread of African swine fever, a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and feral swine, and APHIS’ efforts to date have kept this viral threat out of the U.S., keeping foreign markets open for U.S. pork.
- USDA’s Agricultural Research Service announced that one of its African Swine Fever Virus (ASFV) vaccine candidateshas been shown to prevent and effectively protect both European and Asian bred swine against the current circulating Asian strain of the virus.
- In the trade policy arena, USDA and the Biden-Harris Administration fought to make sure trade rules work for American farmers, ranchers and producers. One significant result was that the United States prevailed in the first dispute settlement panel under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), bringing the U.S. dairy sector one step closer to realizing the full benefits of the USCMA and securing full access to the Canadian market.
- The Administration scored another trade policy win when Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Hanoi in August, securing a commitment from the Vietnamese government to reduce tariffs on U.S. agricultural products. This will give U.S. corn, wheat and pork producers greater access to our seventh-largest agricultural export market, in line with competitors from countries that have free trade agreements with Vietnam.
- The Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) led USDA’s day-to-day efforts to break down trade barriers and generate export opportunities for U.S. agriculture throughout 2021. These efforts resulted in new market access for U.S. pork to India, poultry to Venezuela, and apples and pears to Argentina, among others. In addition, FAS helped: preserve access tothe Mexican market for $3.6 billion in processed food products; reopen the $46 million market for seafood in Indonesia; protect the $62 million market for beef to Egypt; preserve access to Brazil’s market for $35 million of U.S. milk products, $7 million of beef, and $9 million of seafood; and ensure continued access for $79 million in veterinary products to Ukraine.
- FAS worldwide staff worked to ensure that exported U.S. farm and food products arrived swiftly and safely at their intended destinations, assisting American exporters in releasing hundreds of shipments, valued at more than $52 million, that were detained at overseas ports of entry. The products included fruits and vegetables in Guatemala, hardwood lumber in India, cheese in Chile, aquaculture feed in Bangladesh, and poultry in South Africa.
- USDA also made significant investments in export promotion worldwide, awarding nearly $202.4 million to nearly 70 U.S. agricultural organizations to help expand exports of U.S. farm and food products through the FAS Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program. Those programs continue to yield results, generating an estimated $28 in exports for every $1 invested by government and industry. FAS also kept exports flowing by providing $2.1 billion in credit guarantees that supported sales of U.S. agricultural commodities to Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
- USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) provided more than $50 million to 140 organizations and institutionsthat teach and train beginning farmers and ranchers.
- NIFA invested more than $30 million for 33 grants, as part of NIFA’s Organic Agriculture Program, to support farmers and ranchers who grow and market high-quality organic food, fiber, and other organic products.
Strategically Addressing Supply Chain Vulnerabilities:
- USDA has made significant strides in implementing the President’s Executive Order 14017 “America’s Supply Chains” by convening an interagency, interdisciplinary team comprised of nearly 40 subject matter experts, crafting a USDA strategy for developing a one-year supply chain report on food and agriculture, soliciting and analyzing more than 900 public comments, responding to interagency feedback from multiple federal partners, and identifying the top food and agriculture priority vulnerabilities with numerous corresponding policy recommendations that USDA and our federal partners can implement to build resiliency in the food system moving forward.
Leveraging American Agriculture to Address Americans’ Food Needs:
- AMS managed Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative awards of up to $600 million through cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments to procure and distribute local and regional foods and beverages that are healthy, nutritious and unique to their geographic area. These funds will also help build and expand economic opportunity for socially disadvantaged producers. Up to $400 million will support emergency food providers and up to $200 million will support school nutrition programs.
- In August 2021, AMS implemented a new Dairy Donation Program that allocated $400 million to facilitate the donation of dairy products and reduce food waste to address local needs. Under this new program, eligible dairy organizations partner with non-profit feeding organizations that distribute food to individuals and families.
- AMS partnered with USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service to purchase 1.7 million individual boxes of pre-packed, mixed fresh fruits and vegetables through The Emergency Food Assistance Program Fresh Produce Initiative (TEFAP) to help those most in need with emergency food assistance. The initiative covered 29 vendors with $13.1 million in contracts for food packages that were delivered to 42 states as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. AMS also developed and implemented a program to inspect and certify that TEFAP fresh fruit and vegetable purchases met the applicable grade and produce quality requirements.
In 2022, USDA will continue to prioritize the following objectives:
Creating a Fairer, More Competitive, and More Resilient Meat and Poultry Supply Chain:
- USDA is preparing new proposed rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act, one of USDA’s most important laws to promote fair and competitive markets. USDA also is working with the Federal Trade Commission to prepare a report on access to retail and competition’s role in protecting new market entrants in meat processing.
- AMS is continuing to enhance transparency in cattle markets through USDA’s Market News service, which enables better price discovery in the nearly 80% of cattle traded today through contractual arrangements outside of the cash-negotiated spot markets.
- Earlier this month, USDA announced that it is strengthening enforcement against anti-competitive practices through a joint USDA-U.S. Department of Justice initiative establishing a new portal for reporting concerns about potential violations of the competition laws.
- USDA is jump-starting independent processing projects that will increase competition and enhance the resiliency of the food supply chain. This new processing capacity will build momentum in a currently concentrated market. For example, 50 beef slaughter plants owned by just a handful of companies currently process nearly all the cattle in the United States. USDA will provide gap financing grants totaling up to $375 million for independent processing plant projects that fill a demonstrated need for more diversified processing capacity.
Building Demand for American Agricultural Products:
- In July 2021, Secretary Vilsack announced that USDA would be initiating a top-to-bottom review of the “Product of USA” voluntary label for meat products. USDA is committed to ensuring that the label meets consumer expectations and allows for fair and competitive markets. FSIS has begun that review, including a consumer survey, that will guide planned rulemaking to clarify the “Product of USA” standard.
Expanding Markets for American Agriculture:
- USDA will continue to engage with foreign trading partners, international organizations and others to create a global environment that’s conducive to agricultural trade by knocking down trade barriers, negotiating and enforcing trade agreements, and establishing transparent and predictable rules and standards.
- Led by FAS, USDA also will continue partnering with the U.S. agricultural industry to create new and better market opportunities for the high-quality, cost-competitive American food and farm products that customers around the world need and want.