USDA recently announced details for a $470 million excess food purchase program designed to support both struggling producers and families in need. The money will be used by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) to purchase a wide variety of produce, meats, and dairy that otherwise may go to waste amid the severe food supply chain disruptions created by the coronavirus pandemic.

Specific amounts have been allocated to purchase different commodities, including surplus dairy ($120 million), potatoes and turkey products ($50 million each), strawberries ($35 million), and pork and chicken ($30 million each). Catfish, Alaska pollock, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and orange juice are some of the other purchases outlined by the department. You can find the full list HERE . AMS will begin issuing solicitations in June and shipments are expected to begin in July. You can learn more about AMS solicitations HERE.

The $432 million in new funding is being added to what’s known as the Section 32 purchasing account which is permanently funded by the government. It’s typically used to fund things like school lunches and farm disaster relief programs. Other coronavirus relief programs passed by Congress have earmarked an additional $850 million for food bank administrative costs and USDA food purchases, of which a minimum of $600 million will be designated for food purchases, according to the USDA.

The USDA is also continuing to make purchases under the existing trade mitigation program, which is estimated to have roughly $700 million left. According to some recent research from the American Farm Bureau, integration of the trade mitigation farm purchases helped to nearly double total AMS commodity purchases, which reached $3.5 billion in fiscal year 2019, an increase of $1.3 billion from fiscal year 2018.

The latest purchase plan is in addition to the Farmers to Families Food Box program USDA announced in mid-April. That program directs $3 billion to be spent at a rate of $300 million per month on fresh food products that will be assembled into variety boxes and sent to food banks. USDA announced on May 8 that it had awarded $1.2 billion in contracts so far under the program. The first shipment of food boxes is expected to go out by the middle of this month. More information about the USDA Farmers to Families Food Box program is available  HERE. (Sources: USDA, Farm Bureau, Fern)

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