USDA Framework May Have an Opportunity for YOU!
Shoring Up the Food Supply Chain and Transforming the Food System to Be Fairer, More Competitive, More Resilient

Last week the USDA announced the “Food System Transformation Framework,” a department wide program aimed at the food supply chain, including the fresh produce and products sector.  The framework is comprehensive and deserves to have the overarching details spelled out for you.
The devil is seemingly almost always in the details, and the NWA will communicate any additional information as it may arise.  Until that time, here is the layout of the framework:
    •    $200 million for Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program for specialty crop operations that incur eligible on-farm food safety program expenses to offset compliance costs of regulatory requirements and market-driven food safety certification requirements.
    •    Up to $600 million in financial assistance to support food supply chain infrastructure aimed at independently owned and available infrastructure such as cold storage, refrigerated trucks, and processing facilities are in short supply but essential to creating a more resilient food system. USDA will make investments to address the limited processing, distribution, storage, and aggregation capacity for a variety of food sectors, including high equipment costs, lack of competition, and limited supply chain and value chain coordination.
    •    Up to $300 million in a new Organic Transition Initiative to provide comprehensive support for farmers to transition to organic production through technical assistance, including farmer-to-farmer mentoring; provide direct support through conservation financial assistance and additional crop insurance assistance and support market development projects in targeted markets. This builds on the Organic Certification and Transition Cost Share program that was previously announced that provides pandemic assistance to producers and handlers of agricultural products who are obtaining or renewing their certification under the National Organic Program (NOP).
    •    Up to $75 million to support urban agriculture. The 2018 Farm Bill authorized the Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production to award competitive grants to support urban agriculture. USDA will invest $20 million in funding a backlog of applications as well as an additional $10 million increase in money available for the 2022 funding year. Additionally, USDA will invest $40 million in cooperative agreements with organizations to support outreach and training activities for urban farmers.
    •    $400 million to create regional food business centers that will provide coordination, technical assistance, and capacity building support to small and mid-size food and farm businesses, particularly focused on processing, distribution and aggregation, and market access challenges. The business development needs of food businesses are distinct from other small businesses and existing business support networks such as those the Small Business Administration.
    •    Additional $40 million in the GusNIP Produce Prescriptions Program.  This program funds projects that demonstrate and evaluate the impacts of fresh produce prescriptions to increase fresh fruit and vegetable consumption, improve health, and reduce food insecurity. Since launching this program following the passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, demand has increased by 30 percent each year. While our long-term goal is for this work to live at Health and Human Services and not USDA, it is still a step in right direction. We will also be putting out a positive statement on this through the Produce Prescription Collaborative.
    •    $100 million to create a new Healthy Food Incentive Fund, which will support school food authorities to innovate and accelerate their efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school meals to children.  With these funds USDA will support peer to peer learning and recognize local programs for their leadership, excellence and efforts to deliver health nutritious food.
    •    $60 million to leverage increased commodity purchases through Farm-to-School.  Farm-to-school programs are a proven model of increasing markets for farmers via child nutrition programs while also providing children healthy, fresh food. These grants to states and territories administering farm to school programs will support increased procurement and use of local foods in child nutrition program meals.
    •    Increases Healthy Food Financing Initiative to $155 million. Aimed at ‘food deserts’, this program provides grants and loans to entities that offer healthy food in communities that are underserved by grocery stores and other food retailers.
    •    $25 million to support SNAP technology improvements to modernize the delivery of incentive programs through SNAP’s electronic benefit transfer (EBT) technology.  Reliable, affordable, user-friendly technology is important to enabling producers and food businesses to accept SNAP benefits from customers.  This will support more project funds going to incentives rather than the administrative costs of delivering the incentive.
    •    Up to $90 million to prevent and reduce food loss and waste.  Wasted food results in unnecessary uses of energy as well as methane and CO2 emissions; reducing food waste can help the United States meet its climate commitments. USDA will invest an additional $30 million in the Community Compost and Food Waste Reduction Program and will fund a feasibility study and corresponding actions that will support a National Food Loss and Waste Strategy.

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