Washington, D.C. (January 25, 2021)—The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) applauded President Joe Biden for signing an executive order (EO) to support manufacturers, businesses and workers to ensure that federal purchasing programs follow “Buy American” requirements. NCFC has long supported enforcing and strengthening the “Buy American” provisions in programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture such as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.
The EO seeks to close loopholes in how domestic content is measured, to create a new position at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to oversee the issue, and to increase oversight of waivers to domestic preference laws. NCFC and its members have expressed deep concern in recent years over a marked increase in the amount of foreign-produced food served under the school lunch and breakfast programs when comparable American-grown products are readily available and competitively priced, something that is contrary to the intent of the Buy American provisions.
“On behalf of America’s farmer co-ops and their member-owners, I would like to thank President Biden for signaling his strong support for ‘Buy American’ provisions as a way to ensure good jobs and prosperous local economies across the country,” said Chuck Conner, president and CEO of NCFC. “At the same time, the previous administration started by making a similar show of support for these provisions, but failed to put substance and action behind its words. Hopefully, by appointing a new Director of Made In America within the White House, this administration will be more active in enforcing existing requirements in the law and in working with Congress to strengthen these provisions.”
As an example of the problem, in the past few years research has found that:
- 81 percent of apple juice served in U.S. schools is imported;
- 50-60 percent of the fish served in schools are caught by Russian ships and processed in China;
- 26 states, including the two largest peach growing states of California and Georgia, serve Chinese canned peaches to students.
“Sourcing non-U.S. foods—even when competitively priced domestic alternatives are available—not only runs counter to the law, but destroys jobs across the value chain, especially in fruit and vegetable processing, which employs over 1.5 million Americans,” Conner concluded. “We look forward to working with the new official at OMB providing oversight to these programs to ensure that we see fewer of the examples mentioned above in the future.”
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.