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USDA Foods: From American Farms to American Tables

Posted by Rex A. Barnes, Agricultural Marketing Service Associate Administrator in Food and Nutrition Farming
Oct 27, 2015
Food Purchasing Infographic
A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) infographic highlighting food purchases and programs that help feed those in need. Click to view a larger version.

USDA has programs and services that bring the bounty of American agriculture to people and communities across the country. One of the most impactful ways my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), fulfills its mission is through our USDA Foods purchase programs.  Our food purchases begin with American farmers, ranchers, and fishermen, and end their journey on the tables of our nation’s schools, food banks, and communities.

AMS plays a central role in this supply chain that delivers about 2 billion pounds of domestically-grown and -processed food each year. That equates to about 52,000 semi-trucks full of food every year—enough trucks to stretch the length of Florida tip to tip!

These purchases support America’s agricultural producers by providing a reliable outlet for over 50 domestic food commodities; fruits, vegetables, specialty crops, meat, poultry, eggs, fish, cheese, other dairy products, grain, bakery, and oilseed products. When the need arises in many of these markets, our purchase program can quickly and efficiently remove surplus products from the marketplace. This service helps buffer domestic producers of these products from the effects of extreme supply or demand fluctuations.

But there is more to our role than just purchasing food—we are involved in the entire supply chain. These domestic commodities, produced and processed into a wide variety of USDA Foods, are delivered to federal food and nutrition assistance programs that are a vital component of our nation’s food safety net. These programs depend on USDA Foods to meet their needs, and AMS ensures the products are wholesome and meet high quality specifications.  We also work closely with our approved suppliers and contractors to guarantee year-round deliveries.

In 2014, USDA delivered over 930 million pounds of food to state agencies for distribution to food banks, soup kitchens and other community organizations.

USDA Foods suppliers and contractors come in all shapes and sizes from small businesses and farmer-owned cooperatives to large processors—they all have an opportunity with USDA. Our annual industry meeting for USDA Foods contractors and suppliers brings together all our stakeholders in one place for valuable presentations and dynamic discussions about USDA Foods and AMS commodity purchase programs.  Next week, for the first time ever, we’ll welcome the dairy and domestic grain, bakery and oilseed product vendors to our annual industry meeting in Arlington, Va., on Oct. 27 and Oct. 28.

We look forward to working with all of our USDA Foods contractors and suppliers to bring food from the farm to the table.

Category/Topic: Food and Nutrition Farming