Farm groups urge stronger USDA enforcement of ‘Buy American’ rule

Fifty-one farm groups, trade associations, farmer co-ops and agribusinesses on Tuesday, March 22, urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to strengthen President Biden’s “Buy American” executive order as it applies to USDA’s National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs.

“[W]e strongly believe that the guidance related to Buy American needs to be strengthened and a uniform waiver procedure developed for food products not produced or manufactured in the U.S. in sufficient quantity and quality to meet school demands. Our school food authorities need clearer, simpler, and definitive guidance,” the groups wrote. “A uniform waiver procedure for food products not produced domestically (i.e., bananas, pineapple, spices, etc.) or not available in sufficient quantity would reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens and paperwork for school food authorities.”

The letter urged USDA to focus its efforts on food distributors as well, including those serving many rural areas.

“Additionally, as USDA looks to revitalize our supply chains, emphasis should be placed on increasing the number of suppliers willing to serve low population areas of our country. School food authorities need options and should not be forced to buy foreign products because their sole supplier does not stock a sufficient supply of domestically produced items,” the groups state. “At the end of the day, as long as the ‘significant cost differential’ exemption remains, we essentially have no Buy American requirement for school meals.”

The letter was released by the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives.


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