USDA Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization Resources:
- New to Federal Contracting?
- New to Contracting with the USDA?
Vendors can sell various domestic commodity products to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which coordinates the supply of USDA Foods to the National School Lunch Program and other food and nutrition assistance programs in the United States and its territories.
All information necessary for a vendor to understand the intentions of USDA and the requirements to sell product is available on the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) website at www.ams.usda.gov/commoditypurchasing. The following information will assist interested vendors in understanding the AMS procurement process and what is required to participate in these opportunities.
The purchasing programs are a coordinated effort in USDA. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) submits orders based on the specific needs of recipient agencies. AMS gathers competitive bids (offers) from vendors, awards contracts, and ensures quantity and quality for purchased commodities. Upon completion of contract requirements, AMS processes invoices for payment.
The procurement process begins when the AMS Commodity Procurement Division (CPD) issues a Purchase Announcement detailing its plans to purchase one or more commodity products. The Announcement is followed by one or more “solicitations” issued through the Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM). WBSCM is the cradle-to-grave system in which approved vendors access the solicitation, submit their offer, manage their awarded contracts, and invoice for payment once contract requirements have been fulfilled. The commodities supplied must meet minimum specified requirements and be USDA-inspected to ensure quality.
Vendors must comply with Federal and USDA purchasing regulations and guidelines and be approved to do business with USDA prior to submitting an offer. For detailed information about becoming an approved vendor, reference the Vendor Qualification Requirements (PDF).
The AMS Master Solicitation for Commodity Procurements (PDF) contains all the general contract clauses prescribed by the Federal Acquisition Regulations, including pre-award and post-award certifications, representations and warranties. This document is the basis for most AMS commodity contracts. It is in the vendor’s best interest to be familiar with the entire document.
Purchase Cycle: The “purchase year” for the National School Lunch Program and other federal food and nutrition assistance programs typically follow a school year basis, with contracting beginning anew each spring for product deliveries running from July through the following May or June. Purchases may take place annually, quarterly, or more frequently depending on funds appropriated and recipient needs, as well as the production cycles of the various agricultural industries. A Purchase Schedule is posted on the AMS Commodity Purchasing website each spring outlining the general plans for the purchase year.
Bids/Offers: Almost all products are purchased under a formally advertised, competitive bid purchase program. The only exceptions are purchases made during a Presidentially-declared disaster or in those rare occasions when only one vendor can supply a product.
Solicitations: The solicitation invites competitive bids (aka offers) for the products listed. The solicitation package—which constitutes the contract—includes the Master Solicitation, the Vendor Qualification Requirements, applicable Commodity Specifications, the vendor’s offer, and the award notification. All offerors are responsible for reading and understanding the provisions of the solicitation package.
Since most purchases are made for the product on a delivered basis, the solicitation also lists destination cities, the quantity to be provided to each destination, as well as the delivery period(s). This format permits an offeror to bid a separate price to each destination, and limit their offered quantity by product type and/or delivery period (“offer constraints”). Under special conditions, AMS may increase or decrease award quantity by destination based on market conditions, and quantities and prices offered. Therefore, the offeror must set quantity constraints based upon their actual ability to supply the product.
Product Specifications: Product specifications may be in the form of a USDA commodity specification, an agency document called a "Schedule," a Products Purchase Description, a US Standard for Grade, or a Commercial Item Description. The specification provides details on product formulations, manufacturing requirements, packaging, sampling and testing requirements, and quality assurance provisions.
Contract Administration: Contracted vendors must produce the commodity product according to the applicable specification. Inspection of the product must be performed by AMS certification agents at the cost of the contractor. Waivers of contract requirements are limited to minor infractions not affecting product safety, quality, or shelf-life. Timely delivery is critical to all federal food and nutrition assistance programs. Therefore, penalties shall accrue to contractors for late delivery and firms delivering late may be prohibited from bidding on future solicitations.
Payments: Payments are made in accordance to the Prompt Payment Act. Refer to the AMS Master Solicitation for Commodity Procurements (PDF) for additional information regarding contract payments.
Small Business (SB) Opportunities: AMS is committed to working with and providing procurement opportunities to small businesses. Please contact our SB Coordinator for assistance (Dianna.Price@ams.usda.gov)
SB Set Asides: AMS may assist small businesses through set-aside programs. A set-aside is when AMS designates all or part of a solicitation for competition among approved small business vendors only. AMS may also offer noncompetitive awards to small, disadvantaged firms (8a) through procedures and an annual agreement established through the Small Business Administration.
Other SB Opportunities: Another source for procurement opportunities is the subcontracting arena. The Federal Acquisition Regulations require vendors classified as large businesses and awarded federal contracts exceeding $650,000 (aggregated over the calendar year) to implement a subcontracting plan that provides maximum practical participation of small, disadvantaged, service-disabled veteran-owned, HUBZone and women-owned businesses. Subcontracting Directories can be obtained from USDA’s Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU).
Brokers/Non-manufacturers: All vendors wishing to participate as an 8(a) Business Development Program or Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business (SDVOSB) must be in compliance with Small Business Administration (SBA) regulations.
The SBA regulation, 13 CFR 124.108 for 8(a) firms states:
“(d) Brokers. Brokers are ineligible to participate in the 8(a) BD program. A broker is a concern that adds no material value to an item being supplied to a procuring activity or which does not take ownership or possession of or handle the item being procured with its own equipment or facilities.”
The SBA regulation for 13 CFR 121.406 for SDVOSBs states:
“Nonmanufacturers. (b), (ii) Is primarily engaged in the retail or wholesale trade and normally sells the type of item being supplied; (iii) Takes ownership or possession of the item(s) with its personnel, equipment or facilities in a manner consistent with industry practice.”
In order to determine your compliance with SBA regulations 13 CFR 121.406 and 13 CFR 124.108, we require the following documents be sent to our office:
- A copy of your 8(a) certification letter from the Washington, D.C. SBA office that shows all of the North American Industry Classification System codes your company is approved to sell.
- SDVOSBs must provide a list of all of the North American Industry Classification System codes that your company wishes to sell to USDA.
- Documentation demonstrating that your company takes possession or ownership for the product(s) you wish to sell to USDA.
- The physical address of your warehouse/storage facility.
Visit the AMS Commodity Procurement Division website at www.ams.usda.gov/commoditypurchasing and review the various products purchased by the USDA for domestic food assistance programs. A link to USDA commodity specifications is on this webpage.
Subscribe to AMS CP NEWS (link) (More Info)
Read the AMS Master Solicitation for Commodity Procurements (PDF).
Provide all of the documents outlined in the Vendor Qualification Requirements (PDF) to the AMS office (address below) or via email to Dianna.Price@ams.usda.gov.
Download the WBSCM Vendor Registration Form (PDF). Complete the form, click the “Check” button, save the form and return it to Dianna.Price@ams.usda.gov.
Approval: Once the necessary documents are submitted, the Contracting Officer will approve or deny the applicant access to the bidding process. If approved, the new vendor will be given a Corporate Vendor Administrator role and a Vendor Offer role, and may now submit bids. If the applicant is denied, the reason(s) for denial will be provided, and the applicant will need to correct the issue(s) before being granted access.
Upon approval, an e-mail will be sent to the applicant indicating that they have been added to the Web Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) and need to set up an e-Authentication account with a user ID and password, and then complete their registration in the WBSCM system. Level 1 access into e-Authentication allows the applicant to enter WBSCM, update company user information, add/change plants/shipping points, and submit offers. Questions regarding this process may be directed to Ms. Price via email.
Questions regarding this process may be directed to Ms. Price via email (Dianna.Price@ams.usda.gov).