Contact: Justin Darisse, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-879-0816
Washington, D.C. (March 23, 2022)—51 farm groups, trade associations, farmer co-ops and agribusinesses on Tuesday urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to move forward in supporting President Biden’s executive order on “Buy American” by strengthening those provisions in US Department of Agriculture’s school nutrition programs.
In January 2021, President Biden signed an executive order to support manufacturers, businesses and workers by enduring that federal programs follow “Buy American” requirements. USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs have requirements have long have “Buy American” requirements. In recent years, however, many of the groups signing on to the letter have seen an increase in foreign-sourced food in the program even though competitively-priced domestic options exist.
“[W]e strongly believe that the guidance related to Buy American needs to be strengthened and a uniform waiver procedure developed for food products not produced or manufactured in the U.S. in sufficient quantity and quality to meet school demands. Our school food authorities need clearer, simpler, and definitive guidance,” the groups write. “A uniform waiver procedure for food products not produced domestically (i.e., bananas, pineapple, spices, etc.) or not available in sufficient quantity would reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens and paperwork for school food authorities.”
The letter urged USDA to focus its efforts on food distributors as well, including those serving many rural areas.
“Additionally, as USDA looks to revitalize our supply chains, emphasis should be placed on increasing the number of suppliers willing to serve low population areas of our country. School Food Authorities need options and should not be forced to buy foreign products because their sole supplier does not stock a sufficient supply of domestically produced items,” the groups state. “At the end of the day, as long as the ‘significant cost differential’ exemption remains, we essentially have no Buy American requirement for school meals”.
A copy of the letter can be accessed on NCFC’s web site at http://ncfc.org/letter/letter-usda-urging-action-buy-american/.
Since 1929, NCFC has been the voice of America’s farmer cooperatives. Our members are regional and national farmer cooperatives, which are in turn composed of nearly 2,000 local farmer cooperatives across the country. NCFC members also include 26 state and regional councils of cooperatives. Farmer cooperatives allow individual farmers the ability to own and lead organizations that are essential for continued competitiveness in both the domestic and international markets.
America’s farmer-owned cooperatives provide a comprehensive array of services for their members. These diverse organizations handle, process and market virtually every type of agricultural commodity. They also provide farmers with access to infrastructure necessary to manufacture, distribute and sell a variety of farm inputs. Additionally, they provide credit and related financial services, including export financing.