WASHINGTON, Dec. 16, 2020 – Throughout 2020, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) delivered critical services and timely resources to agricultural producers.
“We used regulatory flexibilities, technology and a strong commitment to customer service to support the cotton, dairy, grain, meat, poultry, shell eggs and specialty crops sectors in conducting their regular business and adapting to challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic,” said AMS Administrator Bruce Summers. “There were no interruptions in AMS services. In addition to helping implement the Department’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP) priorities, our team continued its daily operations and helped enable the domestic and international marketing of U.S. agricultural products.”
Offering Regulatory Flexibilities:
- AMS worked with the egg industry to redistribute the inventory of safe, high quality table eggs to meet increased consumer demand at grocery stores.
- USDA extended by 60 days the expiration dates of some USDA Good Agricultural Practices, Domestic Origin Verification and Plant Systems Audit certifications to aid in the movement of these crops into marketing channels.
- USDA also waived certain documentation requirements for the Milk Donation Reimbursement Program, allowing American dairy processors to donate more milk for distribution to low-income individuals.
Implementing Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and the Farmers to Families Food Box Program:
- AMS oversaw the purchase and delivery of $4.5 billion in food to food banks, churches, community organizations, schools and tribal organizations through the innovative Farmers to Families Food Box Program. Since May 2020, the program has provided more than 127 million food boxes to Americans in need.
- AMS purchased $1.3 billion worth of American-produced agricultural products through the Food Purchase and Distribution Program, one of three USDA trade mitigation programs aimed at assisting farmers suffering from damages caused by unjustified trade retaliation by foreign nations.
- AMS also continued its support for the nation’s food safety net through its regular, ongoing Section 32 purchases of a variety of domestically produced and processed agricultural products. Approximately $700 million in Section 32 purchases were made for The Emergency Food Assistance Program this year, of which over $496 million in purchases are scheduled for delivery in FY 2021.
- Throughout the year, AMS staff used virtual communications platforms to continue critical operations without interruption, including hosting a virtual formal rulemaking hearing on the California Walnut Board’s recommendation for adding credit-back authority into the federal marketing order, developing a virtual desk auditing program to temporarily replace traditional on-site audits for dairy, and conducting the spring and autumn National Organic Standards Board meetings online.
- AMS deployed the electronic organic import certificate in the Customs and Border Protection Automated Commercial Environment, a process improvement that will provide critical data and make it easier to monitor organic imports.
- In July, AMS launched its “USDA PACA” mobile app, improving and modernizing access to services for companies that buy and sell fruits and vegetables and rely on AMS’s enforcement of the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act (PACA).
- In August, AMS launched the web-based Local Food System Response to COVID Resource Hub to assist local and regional food producers as USDA and its partners develop, share and assess technical assistance resources on local and regional food system responses to COVID-19.
Serving AMS Customers:
- AMS issued more than 127 thousand market reports covering a broad range of products and thousands of markets, pivoting to phone calls, emails and video chat to reach contacts from the wholesale produce markets. AMS staff helped the agricultural sector gain insights on the pandemic’s impacts on rail operations, export capabilities, and the movement of grain and refrigerated produce by truck.
- AMS coordinated with state Departments of Agriculture to track samples for the Pesticide Data Program as the normal schedule of commodity sampling for pesticide residue was disrupted in most states.
- AMS also implemented a new inspection process at U.S. southern border crossings to ensure all fresh tomatoes from Mexico were inspected and met USDA quality standards, conducting over 9,700 tomato inspections.
More information about AMS resources and services is available on its website, www.ams.usda.gov.
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