Successful USDA Foods purchasing is a coordinated effort. AMS develops products and purchase program technical requirements, manages the Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM), and conducts the procurements (solicitations, awards, and contract management) in accordance with federal regulations and USDA policy.
The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) manages the food and nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program and The Emergency Food Assistance Program, generating demand (orders) from qualified recipients for various USDA Foods and coordinating with AMS on the purchase planning and scheduling.
Step 1: The procurement process begins when AMS publicly announces its plans to buy particular USDA Foods. A Purchase Announcement is posted to the AMS website, on the Contract Opportunities website (https://sam.gov), and distributed through the AMS Commodity Procurement Staff’s email distribution service, AMS CP News.
Step 2: The Purchase Program Announcement is followed by one or more “solicitations” issued via WBSCM. Each solicitation describes USDA’s needs in terms of the product, volume, delivery destination (city/State) and delivery window, and invites approved vendors to submit offers to fill the demand. AMS uses two types of solicitation: the “Invitation for Bids” (IFB) and the “Request for Proposals” (RFP).
Step 3: Only approved USDA vendors may respond to a solicitation. At a minimum, the response indicates the price and maximum volume limit/constraint the offeror has for a product or delivery window on the solicitation. (Note: minimum volume constraints are not allowed under AMS solicitations.) RFPs may also require technical proposal submission and/or product samples.
All offers must be entered into WBSCM before the bid closing deadline to be considered for award. AMS receives the offers, conducts evaluations based on offer prices and other factors (including past performance), and awards one or more contracts to achieve the best value to the government.
Step 4: Awarded contractors must perform according to the contract terms. To further ensure the quality and integrity of USDA Foods, audits and inspections for contract compliance are performed by AMS agents at the cost of the contractor.
Waivers granted for deviations from contract requirements are uncommon, limited to minor infractions not affecting product safety, quality or shelf life. Any issues that arise during performance of a contract are addressed through communication and negotiation between the contractor and the AMS Contracting Officer.
Consistent product quality and reliable delivery are critical to federal food and nutrition assistance programs which depend on USDA Foods. Therefore penalties accrue to contractors for late delivery, and contract performance is monitored by AMS and taken into consideration for future awards.
Step 5: Once the contractor has successfully performed on their contract (delivered the product), an invoice is submitted via WBSCM for AMS approval and payment. Payments are made in accordance with the Prompt Payment Act.