Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03) announced Jan. 17 that she will introduce the Buy American Agriculture Act, new legislation to expand ‘Buy America’ principles to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Purchasing and Distribution Program, a key component of USDA’s $12 billion trade relief program that is meant to assist American farmers and ranchers. Last week, The Washington Post reported that nearly $5 million was awarded to Brazilian-owned meat processor JBS. However, new documents from USDA reveal JBS has received more than $22 million dollars—four times more than the amount previously reported.
The Buy American Agriculture Act would require the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to only purchase food products from American companies when such products are available in sufficient quality and quantity. The bill would also bring about additional transparency by requiring the Secretary of Agriculture to publish the reasoning for why they awarded companies purchasing contracts.
“Recent news that millions of USDA’s trade aid dollars were awarded to foreign-owned companies betrays American family farmers, ranchers, and taxpayers,” Congresswoman DeLauro. “We were led to believe this program would assist producers impacted by low crop prices, not line the pockets of foreign companies who already report millions of dollars in annual profits. It is outrageous that USDA can award multimillion dollar contracts to foreign companies with little regard for American businesses. That needs to change. The Buy American Agriculture Act would close that loophole and ensure that money spent by USDA on food purchases rightly prioritizes America’s farmers and American businesses.”
The legislation is endorsed by the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM). OCM was founded in 1998 by farmers, ranchers, attorneys, agricultural economists, rural sociologists and state legislators to challenge the growing income power disparities between agricultural producers and agribusinesses.
“We are encouraged that there are some in Washington, D.C., who are listening to U.S. farmers and ranchers, unlike USDA Secretary Perdue who’s lying in the lap of global corporations and putting their interests before those of American farmers and ranchers who are paying a heavy price for this trade war,” said Mike Callicrate, Kansas cattleman, Co-founder and Board Member of the Organization for Competitive Markets. “Foreign-owned, transnational corporations should not be the beneficiary of U.S. tax dollar bailouts, nor any government purchasing program, for that matter. It’s time to stop the forced taxpayer subsidization of the world's largest corporations.”
The Buy American Agriculture Act is also endorsed by National Family Farm Coalition and the American Grassfed Association.
DeLauro is a senior Democrat on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over funding and oversight of the USDA.