Praise for Vilsack’s food system transformation framework
Chuck Conner, a former Agriculture Department deputy secretary who is now president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, Democratic congressional leaders and several smaller farm groups today praised Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s food system transformation framework.
Conner, a Republican, introduced Vilsack when he gave his speech at Georgetown University.
In the introduction, Conner said that during the past two years in which the food and agriculture supply chain has been “rocked by a series of once-in-a-generation events” including the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and a labor shortage, his members have persevered and learned that “we cannot take the strength of the supply chain for granted.”
“Change is needed to strengthen it in the face of whatever future challenges we see as a nation,” Conner continued. “That is why today’s announcement on USDA’s efforts to ensure resiliency, competitiveness and equity is so important to the future of American agriculture. Farmer co-ops stand ready to be a partner in these efforts and to help ensure that changes to the supply chain bring real benefits to farmers, consumers and rural communities.
“And in this process, we know that we have a trusted partner in Secretary Tom Vilsack. Secretary Vilsack has been a tremendous leader since his return to USDA, encouraging his team to be forward-leaning and proactive to address these challenges head-on. In addition, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow [D-Mich.] has been instrumental in securing the funding for many of the efforts that will be outlined today.”
Stabenow noted in a news release that she had led the effort to secure $4 billion in funding for supply chain resilience in the American Rescue Plan.
“Americans have to access the healthy food they need no matter what,” said Stabenow. “I’m pleased Secretary Vilsack is implementing my supply chain provisions to lower costs, and build a food system that is fairer for consumers and better for the men and women who power our food economy.”
House Agriculture Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., said, “Our committee has worked hard to ensure that Congress provides USDA with the resources it needs to strengthen the supply chain. I applaud Secretary Tom Vilsack and USDA for their hard work to implement these resources in a way that will make the supply chain more resilient, give producers access to markets and fairer prices, and ensure that all Americans have better access to nutritious and affordable food.
“Today’s announcement will complement the House Agriculture Committee’s ongoing efforts to tackle root causes of food and energy supply chain disruptions and provide relief to American producers and consumers. We have recently advanced legislation on these issues out of our committee and are working diligently to bring it to the House floor in the coming weeks,” Scott added.
But Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., said, “Increasing spending on organic initiatives and rooftop gardens while placing misguided blame on corporations and agribusinesses will not increase domestic food production. Today’s announcement blatantly ignores the skyrocketing inflation rates and input costs that are crushing America’s producers, compounded by the administration’s burdensome regulatory overreach. There is no reason to use pandemic-related funds to ‘transform’ a food system that has long provided the safest, most affordable, and sustainable food and fiber supply in the world. If Secretary Vilsack were serious about solutions to help alleviate the emerging world food crisis, he would oppose President Biden’s progressive agenda and advocate for all farmers and ranchers, and the consumers who depend on them.”
American Farmland Trust President and CEO John Piotti said, “The announcement today of the USDA food system transformation framework by Secretary Vilsack is an important step in building a fairer, more competitive and more resilient food system. The comprehensive program addressing production, processing, distribution and markets will benefit consumers, producers and rural communities.
“The Regional Business Development Centers announced today, along with the American Rescue Plan Technical Assistance Investment Program announced earlier this year, represent a significant new investment by USDA in dedicated business technical assistance that has proven effective at creating jobs and boosting business profitability.
“AFT and our partners provided input to USDA on the design of the Regional Food Business Centers, with a particular emphasis on the need for technical assistance to the farm businesses that represent the supply side of the food system.”
Eric Deeble, policy director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said, “Today’s announcement is another meaningful step toward creating a more fair, equitable, and sustainable farm and food system. When taken together with USDA’s recent actions to fight concentration and consolidation and support climate focused conservation programs, these new investments will help farmers grow healthy, affordable foods for families in their own communities.”
Organic Trade Association CEO and Executive Director Tom Chapman said, “USDA’s new Organic Transition Initiative will jumpstart that growth by making the organic transition process more accessible and impactful; particularly for beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers, who experience unique challenges to accessing resources and support programs. This historic investment in food production, which increases options for American farmers to ‘adopt practices that are both good for their businesses and the climate,’ is a significant win for our industry.”
Abby Youngblood, executive director at The National Organic Coalition, said, “NOC is thrilled to see USDA invest in helping more farmers transition to organic production. The creation of this transition program, in addition to increased support for existing organic farmers, is essential to create a more sustainable food system that protects the health of farmworkers, rural communities, and eaters.”
“Organic still makes up less than 1% of farmed acres in the U.S.,” said Environmental Working Group Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Scott Faber. “Today’s announcement will help more farmers transition to practices that no longer rely on toxic pesticides.”
EWG also applauded the USDA initiative’s plan for helping consumers build healthy diets, including steps to address inequitable access to healthy food, improve school meals and support farmers’ markets.
International Fresh Produce Association Chief Public Policy Officer Robert Guenther said, “We have seen a variety of global disruptions expose many weaknesses in our U.S. and global food system. We look forward to the rollout of the plan that will focus on creating a more sustainable and resilient system that recognizes the importance for farmers to remain profitable while also expanding access to nutritious food for all.”
National Farmers Union President Rob Larew said, “Today’s announcement by Secretary Vilsack about how the USDA will work to transform the food system is a great step towards those ends. NFU will work collaboratively with USDA to inform this transformative process.”
Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, said, “Taken together, these initiatives and investments represent a big step toward a truly transformative food and farming system. That Secretary Vilsack and the Biden administration recognize the need to transform our food system to be more resilient to disruption and more equitable is a critical step. And there is much more to be done.
“Of the many ways to transform our food and farm system, the next five-year farm bill reauthorization remains our greatest opportunity. While ultimately determined by Congress, Secretary Vilsack and President Biden can and should advocate for a farm bill that brings our food system in the 21st century by ensuring our food system is resilient in the face of a changing climate, supporting local and regionalized food systems that are less vulnerable to disruption, and addressing a long history of racialized exclusion, discrimination and exploitation across our food system.”
The North Park Stockgrowers Association and Western Landowners Alliance hosted a meeting in Walden, Colo., on June 20 for northern Colorado ranchers focused on reducing conflict between working lands and wildlife as naturally migrating wolves…
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