Today, the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture expressed its recommendations for a resilient, diverse and secure food supply system. Specifically, NASDA commented that investing in public-private partnerships, local food processing infrastructure and the industry’s labor force is critical to ensuring our food system is built to handle future challenges.
“We’re grateful USDA opened this conversation on how we can continue to build up our food supply system,” NASDA CEO Dr. Barb Glenn said. “Our state agriculture department leaders managed to overcome remarkable supply and demand obstacles during the COVID-19 pandemic, and through it, they earned new perspectives on what federal resources support farmers and communities best, and where our food system still remains vulnerable to new disruptions.”
In NASDA’s comments, Glenn shared the organization’s Food Security Toolkit, a report on state food security programs which found highly successful programs are supported by federal grants and led by public and private entities.
“If provided adequate resources, state agriculture departments can incomparably implement federal programs by forming influential partnerships that address unique food security needs of neighborhoods across the country,” Glenn said.
She specifically noted that insufficient cold storage infrastructure is a limitation NASDA members have identified in regional food supply chains.
“The last mile of food distribution remains a challenge that threatens our supply chain’s resiliency,” she commented. “Providing resources to secure refrigerated trucks and cold storage lockers on the farm and for charitable food distributors would have a dramatic effect on improving local and regional food security.”
In addition to increasing consumer access to food, NASDA agrees that improvements must be made in farmers and ranchers’ access to markets. Twenty-seven state departments of agriculture operate state meat and poultry inspection programs, and nationwide, NASDA members have heard from farmers and ranchers that investments in small-scale meat processors will ensure the safety and abundance of American protein.
“We stand ready to help facilitate future opportunities to expand small meat processors’ capacity and effectively fulfill demand without compromising animal welfare, food safety or worker health,” Glenn said.
Without an adequate workforce, however, all functions of our food supply chain come to a halt. “From the field to the laboratory, we must invest in systems that establish a secure, reliable workforce for the agriculture, food and natural resource industries,” Glenn said.
As a solution, NASDA proposes establishing a flexible and efficient visa program that retains current workers as well as supporting youth development programs that encourage awareness and understanding of agriculture and its career pathways.
Potential approaches to investing in public-private partnerships, local food processing infrastructure and the industry’s labor force are covered in-depth in NASDA’s comments along with suggestions on other issues important to our food system. NASDA looks forward to receiving feedback from USDA and encourages USDA to partner with state departments of agriculture on improving existing and developing new programs aimed at improving the food system.
NASDA is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association which represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries, and directors of the departments of agriculture in all fifty states and four U.S. territories. NASDA grows and enhances agriculture by forging partnerships and creating consensus to achieve sound policy outcomes between state departments of agriculture, the federal government, and stakeholders. To learn more about NASDA visit www.nasda.org.