Letter to USDA Urging Action on “Buy American”


March 22, 2022

The Honorable Tom Vilsack


U.S. Department of Agriculture

1400 Independence Ave, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20250


Dear Secretary Vilsack:

Today we are writing to strongly encourage the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to move forward in a timely manner consistent with President Biden’s directive under his January 25, 2021, executive order (EO) to support manufacturers, businesses, and workers by ensuring that federal purchasing programs follow “Buy American” requirements. The undersigned organizations have long supported enforcing and strengthening the “Buy American” provisions in programs administered by USDA such as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

America’s farmers, ranchers, seafood producers and co-ops serve as the backbone of our economy, and it is imperative that federal policies continue to promote an economically healthy and competitive U.S. agriculture sector. The United States produces the safest and highest quality food in the world under the most stringent laws and regulations. Not only do our children deserve the best food, but also American taxpayers deserve to know that their funds are used to support U.S. jobs and businesses.

While we were encouraged to see the Department’s August 4, 2021, Request for Information (RFI): Buy American in the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program, we do hope the Department will expeditiously be moving forward with concrete actions to ensure American grown food is served in our schools. 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 the fruit and vegetable processing industry, which employs over 1.5 million Americans

As outlined in our comments to the August RFI, we 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. Schools must recognize that adherence to the Buy American requirements is expected and will be enforced. 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. Food distributors also need to be more aware of the Buy American requirements. Repeated violations, such as substituting foreign sourced food products after indicating compliance with the Buy American requirements, could be grounds for barring the distributor as a supplier in the school feeding programs.

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. 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.

In light of the recent invasion of Ukraine and subsequent market disruptions, it is a reminder now more than ever of the importance maintaining the domestic production of products critical to our national and economic security. Food is one of the six critical supply chain sectors that have been targeted by the Biden Administration to strengthen and prevent further disruptions. It should be self-evident that a strong food supply is critical to our national and economic security, so the robust enforcement of Buy American requirements with school food programs financed with federal dollars is directly in line with the President’s goals.

Thank you for your continued leadership and advocacy within the Biden Administration on behalf of farmers and ranchers and we look forward to working with you to further support America’s agricultural producers.


Agricultural Council of California

American AgCredit

American Farm Bureau Federation

Apricot Producers of California

Burnette Foods

California Canning Peach Association

California Cherry Growers & Industry Association

California Date Commission

California Farm Bureau Federation

California Grain and Feed Association

California League of Food Producers

California Pear Growers Association

California Seed Association

California Tomato Growers Association

Can Manufacturers Institute

Cherry Central Co-op

Cherry Marketing Institute

Del Monte Foods

Florida Farm Bureau Federation

Food Northwest

Indian Summer

MBG Marketing

Michigan Apple Association

Michigan Farm Bureau

Michigan Freeze Pack

Michigan Processing Apple Growers

Michigan Processing Asparagus Growers

Michigan State Horticultural Society

Michigan Vegetable Council

Midwest Food Products Association

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives

National Peach Council

New York Farm Bureau

Northwest Horticultural Council

NW Cherry Growers

Pacific Coast Producers

Pacific Northwest Canned Pear Service

Packers Canning Company dba Honee Bear Canning

Peterson Farms

Riveridge Cider Co. LLC

Riveridge Produce Marketing Inc.

Seneca Foods

Summer Prize Frozen Foods

Sun-Maid Growers of California

Sunsweet Growers

Titan Farms/Chalmers Carr

Tree Top, Inc.

U.S. Apple Association

US Sweet Potato Council

Washington State Fruit Commission

Wawona Frozen Foods

Related Resources