On November 27, the Biden administration announced a sweeping range of programs to address supply chain issues that were highlighted during the pandemic.
The wide array of provisions ranges from measures intended to promote manufacture of essential pharmaceuticals in the U.S. to the establishment of a presidential Council on Supply Chain Resilience (which will carry out a quadrennial supply chain review).
But the elements that probably relate most directly to the produce industry have to do with increased information sharing in supply chains.
Creation of a Supply Chain Center aimed at “integrating industry expertise and data analytics to develop innovative supply chain risk assessment tools, and . . . coordinating deep-dive analyses on select critical supply chains to drive targeted actions to increase resilience.”
Enhancement of the Department of Transportation’s Freight Logistics Optimization Works (FLOW) program, “a public-private partnership that brings together U.S. supply chain stakeholders to create a shared, common picture of supply chain networks and facilitate a more reliable flow of goods,” said the White House announcement.
“DOT is announcing a new milestone for FLOW, in which participants are beginning to utilize FLOW data to inform their logistics decision making, helping to avoid bottlenecks, shorten lead times for customers, and enable a more resilient and globally competitive freight network through earlier warnings of supply chain disruption,” added the White House announcement.
FLOW was launched in March 2022, with 18 participants, to address congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Backups in the container supply there caused disruptions across the supply chain that are regarded as a major cause of inflation over the past two years.
“As the effort continues to mature, DOT will work with the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to increase data transparency for containerized shipments of agricultural products in the United States, efforts that can help producers and sellers avoid disruptions that can increase food prices,” said the White House announcement.
DOT officials say the digital sharing platform has expanded to five of the nation’s largest container ports, seven of the largest ocean carriers, and four of the five largest retailers. Retailer FLOW participants include Albertsons, Becton Dickinson, Best Buy, Costco, Dollar General, GE Appliances, Home Depot, Land O’Lakes, Lowe’s, Nike, Ralph Lauren, Samsung, Target, The Gap, Tractor Supply Co., TrueValue, Ulta Beauty, and Walmart.
The administration also committed itself to “deepening international early warning systems to detect and respond to supply chain disruptions in critical sectors with allies and partners,” including the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Canada, and Mexico.