Washington, DC – Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03) and David Valadao (R-CA-22) and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act (Procurement Reform Act) in both the House and the Senate. The Procurement Reform Act directs the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) to implement a fresh produce purchasing program that prioritizes purchasing from beginning, small and mid-size, and socially disadvantaged farmers and distributes high quality produce to food insecure communities nationwide.
USDA spends roughly $6 billion annually on domestically produced or processed foods that are distributed through a variety of programs, such as the Emergency Food Assistance and National School Lunch Programs. However, most of these foods are shelf-stable items. Only around $5 million is spent on fresh produce, without any consideration of whether those fresh items are sourced from regional farmers.
“The Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act is an important piece of the federal procurement reform puzzle. It offers an opportunity for local farmers, food hubs, and distributors to provide ready access to fresh, locally produced, nutritious food for community food assistance programs,” commented Hannah Quigley, NSAC Policy Specialist, in response to the bill introduction.
Specifically, the Procurement Reform Act directs USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to implement a fresh produce purchasing program that:
- Contracts with growers, distributors, food hubs, nonprofit organizations, or cooperatives to aggregate and deliver fresh produce to a wide variety of recipient organizations addressing food insecurity in vulnerable communities.
- Competitively awards contracts considering factors other than the lowest-price bid, such as the entities’ existing farmer and community relationships, whether they source from local and regional farmers, and their experience distributing fresh produce.
- Requires contracted entities to provide a variety of fresh produce offerings that are locally grown, as seasonally available, and include a focus on culturally important offerings.
- Offers technical and financial assistance to growers to upgrade food safety equipment and on best practices for navigating AMS contracts.
“Over the last three years we’ve seen local food procurement programs emerge as powerful market development tools that help small farms prosper and enhance local food systems. The Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act would build on this success and reduce the barriers that small-scale producers face in selling to USDA procurement programs,” said Roland McReynolds, Executive Director of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association.
About the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic, and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural communities. Learn more and get involved at: https://sustainableagriculture.net