USDA announces $470m in food purchases

May 4, 2020

Jacqui Fatka

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Monday details of $470 million in Section 32 food purchases to occur in the third quarter of fiscal year 2020, in addition to purchases previously announced, which will enable USDA to purchase surplus food for distribution to communities nationwide.

The purchases are scheduled to occur in the next two months and are in addition to purchases previously announced in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. USDA said these Section 32 purchases will provide additional support for producers and Americans in need, in response to changing market conditions caused by the COVID-19 national emergency.

Perdue is using his authority under “Section 32,” a permanently-authorized program, to make emergency purchases of surplus U.S. commodities for distribution to domestic food assistance programs.  The program is funded through a 30% appropriation of the previous year’s customs receipts collected by the U.S. Government from imported products.

“President Trump has authorized USDA to support our farmers affected by this national emergency and this action to purchase food and deliver to those in need further demonstrates his unwavering support for the American people during these unprecedented times,” said Perdue. “America’s farmers and ranchers have experienced a dislocated supply chain caused by the Coronavirus. USDA is in the unique position to purchase these foods and deliver them to the hungry Americans who need it most.”

The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will purchase a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy and seafood products. Purchases are determined by industry requests, market analysis and food bank needs.

The purchases included $120 million in dairy products, $30 million in pork products, $30 million in chicken, $50 million in turkey products and $30 million in catfish products.

“These Section 32 purchases will help both Americans who need high-quality nutritious food as well as U.S. dairy farmers who are experiencing unprecedented losses from the COVID-19 national emergency,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), the largest U.S. dairy-farmer organization. “The purchases will provide important and needed support to the dairy supply chain. We look forward to learning more details and to continue working with USDA on possible additional purchases.”

“The coronavirus has depressed the market for catfish and other commodities, and Secretary Perdue is right to exercise his power to use an existing program to purchase surplus food that can be directed toward food banks,” said Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R., Miss.), who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee and Senate Agriculture Appropriations subcommittee.

AMS will begin issuing solicitations in June and intends to begin deliveries in July. Details on how vendors may participate are available on the Selling Food to USDA page on the AMS website. Solicitations will be posted to the AMS Open Purchases Request website once available. Industry requests for future purchases using Section 32 funds, including potential plans for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2020, will be assessed on an ongoing basis, USDA said.