USDA and Pennsylvania Collaborate to Fortify Food Supply Chain with $26 Million Grant

US Department of Agriculture (USDA)

WASHINGTON, D.C. —  the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Pennsylvania have teamed up to offer more than $26 million in competitive grant funding. The partnership, announced recently by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, will focus on projects that bolster the middle of the supply chain, a sector often overlooked but crucial for ensuring the smooth flow of goods from farms to tables.

The announcement last Wednesday was made during the Public Officials Day Luncheon at the Pennsylvanian Farm Show, where Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro and Pennsylvania Secretary of Agriculture Russell Redding joined Secretary Vilsack. The trio highlighted the USDA’s ongoing efforts to provide small- and mid-sized farms and food businesses with better market opportunities.

This collaboration forms part of the Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure Program (RFSI), a USDA initiative launched in May 2023 that has made available up to $420 million to fortify local and regional food systems. The RFSI operates under the auspices of the American Rescue Plan and works by entering cooperative agreements with state agencies responsible for agriculture, commercial food processing, seafood, or food system and distribution activities.

Pennsylvania’s share of the RFSI funding will be used to finance projects that increase capacity and resilience in the middle of the supply chain for farm and food businesses. These activities include bundling products from small suppliers, processing, and distribution, thus creating more opportunities for Pennsylvania’s agricultural and food manufacturing industries.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has identified several funding priorities for these projects. They include initiatives benefiting historically underserved farmers, projects enhancing worker safety and training, and those focusing on processing for dairy, fruit, vegetable, and organic commodities. Proposals submitted directly by growers, producers, processors, and shippers are also prioritized.

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The state’s priorities reflect extensive stakeholder engagement and outreach to underserved producers. This approach aims to better understand their needs and build on the work of the PA Food Policy Council, Economic Impact Report of Agriculture, and the PA Farm Bill to create localized, resilient food systems.

This cooperative agreement between the USDA and Pennsylvania comes at a crucial time when supply chain disruptions have been a significant concern nationwide. By focusing on smaller farms and ranches, new and beginning farmers and ranchers, underserved producers, veteran producers, and underserved communities, this initiative aims to ensure a more equitable and robust food system.

The implications of this initiative are significant. A resilient food supply chain is crucial for both national food security and the economic viability of the agricultural sector. By investing in strengthening the middle of the supply chain, the USDA and Pennsylvania are taking a forward-thinking approach that could serve as a model for other states.

However, the success of this initiative will ultimately depend on its implementation. The USDA and Pennsylvania will need to ensure that the funding is effectively allocated and that the projects funded deliver the intended benefits. As such, it will be crucial to monitor the roll-out of this program and its impact on Pennsylvania’s food supply chain and the broader agricultural sector.

For more information, visit the AMS Resilient Food Systems Infrastructure webpage.

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