As part of the Biden Administration’s efforts to address food systems challenges arising from the pandemic as well as those going back decades, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA plans for another $100 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act. The funding would leverage hundreds of millions more in lending through community and private sector lenders to expand meat and poultry processing capacity and finance other food supply chain infrastructure. These investments will help deliver more opportunities and fairer prices for farmers and address bottlenecks in the food supply chain revealed and exacerbated by the pandemic.
The Department plans to publish specific details on the new program and how to apply as part of USDA’s Build Back Better Initiative, a comprehensive plan to invest $4 billion to strengthen the resiliency of America’s food supply chain while promoting competition. This announcement follows the Biden-Harris Administration’s announcement earlier this month of steps it is taking to address concentration in the meat-processing industry, adding a new commitment of $100 million for loan guarantees on top of the previously announced $500 million investment to expand meat and poultry processing capacity.
“Under the leadership of President Biden and Vice President Harris, USDA is shifting the balance of power back to the communities and small businesses of America by investing in ways we can build more, better and fairer markets for farmers and families alike,” Vilsack said. “COVID-19 revealed vulnerabilities in our food system. As we build back better, we must create more, better and fairer markets that enhance competition and create economic opportunity across America’s agriculture and food supply chains. This is another meaningful step in our efforts to act on lessons from COVID-19 to build a food system that is fair, competitive, distributed and resilient where a greater share of the food dollar goes to those growing, harvesting, processing and preparing our food.”
The Administration notes that the COVID-19 pandemic created extreme disruptions in America’s food supply chain, exposing vulnerabilities due to consolidated processing capacity. By expanding access to capital, USDA will help increase private investment to create a more resilient, distributed, and fairer food supply chain.
Through this program, USDA will use $100 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to catalyze millions more in lending available for working capital, facilities, equipment, and other investments. The loan guarantees will help to:
- start-up or expand entities in our food supply chain that aggregate, process, manufacture, wholesale or distribute food.
- address supply chain bottlenecks.
- increase the resiliency of the food supply chain.
As co-Chair of the Biden-Harris Administration’s Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force, Secretary Vilsack and USDA have brought together industry, labor, and federal partners to address the short-term supply chain disruptions arising from the Administration’s strong economic recovery. This is one of several key steps that USDA will take to build a more resilient supply chain and better food system and to increase competition in agricultural markets, pursuant to President Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy and his Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains. This initiative will support key supply chain infrastructure investments to expand and scale existing capacity, as well as support long-term investments in new operations.
USDA is preparing to issue a notice soon to announce eligibility requirements and the application window. USDA encourages lenders and other interested stakeholders to sign up for email updates to receive the latest information about the program and related events. USDA is hosting a lender training webinar on October 14 to inform rural lenders, community development financial institutions, food sector lenders and community lenders about how they can become approved to participate in this program. In addition, USDA is planning a forum for financing entities aligned with the announcement of the eligibility and application requirements.
Earlier this year, USDA announced more than $150 million for existing small and very small processing facilities to help them weather COVID, compete in the marketplace and get the support they need to reach more customers.