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USDA gives just a little clarity to billions in funding

usda secretary tom vilsack

USDA addressed its plans to strengthen the food system with billions of dollars in investments during a virtual press conference June 9.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the recently announced $4 billion will go toward grants and loans and address the areas of food production, food processing, food distribution and markets/consumers.

He said USDA will encourage competition, openness and transparency.

As far as specifics for the fresh produce industry, it’s still mostly a mystery.

Vilsack said one investment would involve the $1 billion pledged for U.S food banks, building storage and refrigeration at food banks so they can better handle perishables like fruits and vegetables.

In broader terms, Vilsack said American agriculture needs to address soil erosion, embrace the climate change problem and improve its resiliency.

“COVID showed [the food supply chain] is not very resilient,” he said.

USDA plans to help more people in farming, allowing them to profitably stay in farming and in ways that are equitable to all races, genders and other differences, Vilsack said, but he still didn’t offer anything specific.

Vilsack also said USDA plans to create ways for local producers to better compete in the market.

A USDA spokeswoman said more than 3,000 people logged onto the conference, and USDA plans to have more statements on plans for investing in agriculture.

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services