Part of the Food Policy Snapshot Series
Policy name: USDA’s Food System Transformation Framework
Overview: The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced a framework designed to improve the US food system’s fairness, competitiveness, and resiliency.
Location: United States
Population: 334.8 million
Food policy category: Sustainable agriculture, food access, nutrition, food production and distribution
Program goals: The framework has four goals:
- To build a more resilient food supply chain, while still reducing carbon emissions.
- To create a fairer food system by increasing and improving local market options.
- To make nutritious food more accessible and affordable.
- To emphasize equity in the food system.
How it works: USDA has outlined several investments it has already made or plans to make, regarding food production, processing, aggregation and distribution, and markets and consumers.
- Food Production
- Up to $300 million will be invested in a new Organic Transition Initiative that will support farmers who want to start organic production. The initiative will include technical assistance, mentoring, financial assistance, crop insurance, and support to find and create markets in which to sell produce.
- Up to $75 million will be invested in supporting urban agriculture. USDA will award $30 million in competitive grants for urban agriculture, $40 million for cooperative agreements with organizations that support urban farmers, and $5 million to support local production through the People’s Garden initiative.
- Food Processing
- $100 million has already been invested in the Food Supply Chain Loan Guarantee Program, which will back lenders who invest in independently-owned infrastructure such as refrigerated trucks or processing facilities.
- Up to $375 million will be invested to support independent meat and poultry processing plants, including $150 million in grants for projects including construction, expansion of facilities, and purchasing equipment.
- $25 million will be invested through the Meat and Poultry Processing Technical Assistance Program to create a strong technical assistance network for those working on meat and poultry supply chain initiatives.
- USDA will invest up to $275 million and work with lenders to make more capital available to independent processors in need of credit.
- Up to $100 million will be used to train and support a reliable workforce and ensure safe workspaces.
- $200 million will be invested in the Food Safety Certification for Specialty Crops Program.
- Up to $600 million will be used to provide financial assistance for food supply chain infrastructure that is not supported by the meat and poultry processing program.
- Food Distribution and Aggregation
- $400 million will be invested in creating regional food business centers that will support small- and mid-sized food and farm businesses, particularly those in underserved communities.
- $60 million will go to increase the use of local foods in Farm to School programs.
- Up to $90 million will be invested in the prevention and reduction of food waste.
- Markets and Consumers
- The Healthy Food Financing Initiative will receive an additional $155 million in funding. This program works to increase access to healthy, affordable foods in underserved communities, provide new market opportunities for farmers, and create jobs in low-income communities.
- The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program will receive an additional $50 million to help seniors access locally-grown fruits and vegetables.
- The GusNIP (Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program) Produce Prescriptions Program will get an additional $40 million to fund projects that evaluate the impact of fresh produce prescriptions on health and food security.
- $25 million will be invested in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) technology improvements.
- $100 million will be used to create a new Healthy Food Incentive Fund to improve the quality of school meals.
Progress to date: This framework was first described in a press release in June of 2021 in response to COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions. The updated, detailed framework including planned investments was announced on June 1, 2022.
Why it is important: The USDA’s press release stated that the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have demonstrated that our food system needs to be strengthened across all stages of the supply chain. The planned investments in food production, processing, distribution, and markets and consumers will help to create a more resilient and equitable food system, so that, if and when future crises arise, food sector jobs, food supply, food quality, environmental health, and public health and nutrition will be protected across all communities and individuals.
Program/Policy initiated: The framework was announced on June 1, 2022. Timelines for each of the forthcoming investments have not yet been published.
Point of contact:
Similar practices: On June 3, 2022, USDA announced a $43 million investment in urban agriculture, one of the first investments of the Food System Transformation framework.
Evaluation: Evaluation has not yet been conducted.
- COVID-19 and Food Systems: Rebuilding for Resilience (United Nations)
- Food Systems, Diets and Nutrition in the Wake of COVID-19 (Nature)
- A Food Systems Response to COVID-19 (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research)
- The Russia-Ukraine War and Global Food Security: A Seven-Week Assessment, and the Way Forward for Policymakers (Center for Strategic and International Studies)
- The Ukraine Crisis Shows How Fragile Our Food Systems Are (Time)
- USDA Lacks Policy Alignment for True Food Systems Transformation (Green Biz)
- The Field Report: Tom Vilsack on How the USDA Can Transform the Food System (Civil Eats)
- USDA Advances Food System Transformation with $43 Million for Urban Agriculture and Innovative Production, Adds New Urban County Committees (USDA)
- USDA Announces Framework for Shoring Up the Food Supply Chain and Transforming the Food System to Be Fairer, More Competitive, More Resilient (USDA)
- USDA to Invest More Than $4 Billion to Strengthen Food System (USDA)