Thursday, September 21, 2023


DeLauro, Valadao and Brown introduce bipartisan Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation that supporters say will increase and improve USDA procurement of fresh fruits and vegetables.

U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and David Valadao, R-Calif., along with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, introduced the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act.

The bill would require USDA to partner with growers, distributors and food hubs to provide fresh, U.S.-grown fruits and vegetables to community organizations like schools, local food pantries and youth organizations while prioritizing socially disadvantaged farmers and entities, regional food inequities, and local and regional food systems, according to a news release.

“Far too many families across the United States do not have readily available access to high-quality fresh fruits and vegetables,” DeLauro said in the release. “The USDA’s Commodity Procurement program buys more than $3 billion in domestically produced foods annually and helps drive important reforms across our food system. That is why I am introducing the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act with Senator Sherrod Brown and Congressman David Valadao. This will allow our diverse local and regional supply chains the opportunity to distribute U.S.-grown fresh produce to those in need.”

“We need to ensure our food insecure residents in the Central Valley have access to the fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables we grow right in our own backyard,” Valadao said in the release. “This bill not only helps our neighbors in need, but it also helps our domestic agriculture sector by ensuring the produce they grow is being put to good use. I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bipartisan bill that will strengthen our agriculture economy and make fresh produce more widely available to those in need.”

“Improving access to local fruits and vegetables is a win-win for Ohio farmers and residents,” Brown said in the release. “Not only does this bill make it easier for Ohio residents to access local produce, but it will also help create shorter American supply chains, ensuring Ohio small family farmers and businesses keep more of their money in their community.”

“The demand for fresh fruits and vegetables for those serving the nutrition insecure remains high but the existing model limits both the suppliers and varieties offered to consumers,” Mollie Van Lieu, International Fresh Produce Association vice president of nutrition and health, said in the release. “IFPA thanks Senator Sherrod Brown and Reps. DeLauro and Valadao for their leadership on this bill which will unlock our diverse and local supply chains to distribute more U.S.-grown fresh produce to those who need it most.”

“Since the first round of Farmers to Families Food Box, Senator Brown and Representatives DeLauro and Valadao have been champions of identifying opportunities for small and mid-sized farms to successfully compete in federal procurement program,” Hannah Quigley, policy specialist for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, said in the release. The Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act offers a pathway to create new market opportunities for small farmers, food hubs, and distributors while increasing access to nutritious, fresh produce. “

Currently, USDA’s existing model for food procurement makes it difficult for highly perishable fresh fruits and vegetables to be procured and delivered to clients in a timely manner, the release said. Additionally, the food options are limited to five fresh produce varieties.

Simultaneously, strong demand exists for fresh fruit and vegetables from community-based organizations and food banks that serve those experiencing hunger, including those that do not have access to existing programs, such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program, the release said.

The Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act would:

  • Provide USDA with an additional tool to partner with existing growers and fresh produce distributors to procure a greater amount of fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Distribute U.S.-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to local food banks, schools, youth-serving organizations, tribal governments and other nonprofit community members serving nutrition-insecure populations.
  • Strengthen access to a wide variety of U.S.-grown fresh fruits and vegetables to recipients in need by including at least seven types of U.S.-grown fresh fruits in vegetables to vulnerable communities living in poverty.
  • Provide opportunities for a wider variety of high-quality produce sourced, packed and distributed from growers and distributors of all sizes, including veteran, women-owned and socially disadvantaged members of the agriculture community.

The Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act is endorsed by Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, Advocates for Better Children's Diets, American Heart Association, Balanced, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Center for Science in the Public, Chef Ann Foundation, Des Moines Area Religious Council Food Pantry, Farm Sanctuary, The Food Trust, Healthy Food America, International Fresh Produce Association, National Center for Health Research, Save the Children, ScratchWorks, The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, Wholesome Wave, YMCA of the USA and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Source: The Packer