The USDA has announced a new initiative climate-smart agriculture
On September 29, Washington Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack unveiled a comprehensive package of initiatives to address the challenges confronting America’s agricultural producers. These include drought assistance and costs, animal health, agricultural commodity market disruptions, and school food supply chain concerns.
Secretary Vilsack also described and solicited public input on a new climate partnership initiative aimed at providing producers with new revenue streams through market opportunities for commodities produced using climate-smart practices.
“Agriculture in the United States is presently facing unprecedented challenges on several fronts,” Vilsack stated. “From commodity production to processing and distribution, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted every level of our food supply chain. Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners are increasingly feeling the impact of climate change as extreme storms, floods, droughts, and wildfires events damage their operations and threaten their livelihoods. We know that these challenges will persist into 2022, and that new ones may emerge. USDA will take steps to prevent the spread of African Swine Fever, assist producers dealing with drought and market disruptions, and assist school nutrition professionals in obtaining nutritious food for students through this comprehensive set of initiatives. By tackling these issues head-on, USDA will be better positioned to respond in the future when new difficulties arise.”
Comprehensive Investment Strategy
The USDA intends to invest $3 billion in drought resilience and response, animal disease prevention, market disruption mitigation, and school nutrition program food purchases. The Commodity Credit Corporation will provide the assistance. The funds will be used to provide the following services:
$500 million to aid drought recovery and promote water-wise management practices. Record-breaking drought has impacted producers across the country, leaving ranchers with bare winter pastures and short on hay, and forcing crop growers to adjust to running their operations with a fraction of the water normally available. This assistance will be directed toward these issues, allowing the USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation agencies to provide much-needed relief and plan drought resilience initiatives proportionate to the severity of the crisis.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service would receive up to $500 million to aid in the prevention of the spread of African swine fever by expanding and coordinating monitoring, surveillance, prevention, quarantine, and eradication efforts. ASF outbreaks have caused significant loss of productivity and trade in other parts of the world. It is critical that we all work together to prevent the disease from spreading.
As part of Secretary Vilsack’s work as co-chair of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, $500 million will be provided to alleviate agricultural market disruptions such as increased transportation challenges, availability and cost of certain components, and other near-term obstacles related to commodity marketing and distributiontion.
Schools will receive up to $1.5 billion in assistance to help them respond to supply chain disruptions. Throughout the epidemic, school food professionals have faced enormous challenges in ensuring that every student receives the nutrition they need to learn, grow, and thrive. However, local community conditions remain volatile, and food and labor supply chains have been stressed and, at times, disrupted. These funds will be used to support agricultural commodity procurement and will enable the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service and Agricultural Marketing Service to expand the toolbox for school nutrition professionals who work hard to ensure students have consistent access to healthy meals. The USDA’s announcement today adds to the USDA’s ongoing efforts to address the ongoing challenges that school districts face during this difficult time and provide the resources, tools, and flexibility they need to provide students with healthy and nutritious meals.
This package of targeted investments will address unmet needs in our food system and supplement a suite of USDA programs implemented in response to COVID-19.
This includes the Department’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative as well as the longer-term Build Back Better initiative, which will address supply chain vulnerabilities and transform our food system based on COVID-19 lessons.