The American Farm Bureau Federation sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack detailing a list of solutions to address critical supply chain issues facing America’s farmers and ranchers. AFBF details seven priorities for USDA to consider in response to President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on America’s Supply Chains.
“We are now in our 18th month of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this period, our nation has witnessed vulnerabilities throughout the supply chain that haven’t been seen before,” wrote AFBF President Zippy Duvall. “Supplies of farm inputs like crop protectants, fertilizers, and seeds have been difficult to obtain, and expensive to purchase. Highway transportation of farm products and supplies is more expensive and less available today than pre-pandemic levels, and timely maritime transport of value-added agricultural exports is frustrated, at best. All the while, agricultural labor, both domestic and foreign, is increasingly difficult to access and expensive, making already small margins even tighter.”
Among the recommendations, AFBF asks USDA to consider action on:
· Livestock markets and processing capacity. AFBF supports USDA’s commitments and efforts to bolster the role of small capacity meat packers in the supply chain. We also support the grant program, under development, to assist those small plants in becoming FSIS inspected;
· Farm inputs. Farm Bureau urges USDA to work with other agencies to ensure increased costs to farmers are considered in tariff rulings and scientific data is used during the pesticide registration process;
· Transportation. Farm Bureau recommends that USDA and USDOT continue to coordinate to ensure agricultural haulers and the rest of the trucking industry have the flexibilities needed to provide timely delivery of essential products. USDA should also work with relevant authorities to improve the nation’s rail and port systems;
· Labor. AFBF urges USDA to work across the federal government to streamline the application process and ensure timely arrivals of guestworkers while ensuring personal protective equipment is readily available for farm workers;
· Trade. Farm Bureau asks USDA to consider the impacts of trade actions on agricultural exports and resolve outstanding issues with the U.S.-China Phase 1 Agreement.
AFBF stands ready to work with USDA and the Biden administration on finding solutions to these pressing issues. President Duvall wrote, “As our country moves through what we hope are the final chapters of the COVID-19 pandemic and turns its focus to growth and recovery, we ask that USDA continue to engage with Farm Bureau leaders and staff on matters of critical importance to American agriculture.”