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commodity procurement

Food Safety in Numbers

March is National Nutrition Month. Throughout the month, USDA will be highlighting results of our efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans and supporting the health of our next generation.

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) purchases nearly 100 million pounds of boneless and ground beef each year for distribution through Federal nutrition assistance programs, including the National School Lunch Program.  AMS works tirelessly with producers, processors, and other federal and state officials to ensure that beef delivered to program recipients is safe and nutritious.

The products we purchase support American agriculture through domestic-only purchases that are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country.  These purchases are a vital component of our nation’s food security program.  The Food Safety and Commodity Specifications Division – part of the AMS Livestock, Poultry, and Seed program – sets standards and provides testing and oversight for these purchases.

USDA Agencies, Suppliers and Vendors Taking Steps to Improve USDA Foods Purchase Process

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) commodity purchases play an important role in supporting American agriculture.  One commodity purchasing effort - the USDA Foods Program - purchases about 2 billion pounds of nutritious, domestically produced foods each year and supplies this food to families, schools, food banks, and communities nationwide, also serving as a key tool for combatting hunger.

Together, the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, Food and Nutrition Service and Farm Service Agency manage the USDA Foods Program. And together, we have launched the USDA Foods Business Management Improvement project, a broad effort to review and re-engineer USDA’s food procurement practices to improve the program for our customers and stakeholders.

Meeting to Make a Difference in USDA's Food Purchasing Programs

When you’re a contract specialist with USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), you’re part of a Commodity Procurement team that purchases 1.7 billion pounds of commodities a year to support domestic agriculture. You’re part of a network- which also includes the Food and Nutrition Service, the Farm Service Agency, and hundreds of American agricultural producers, processors, and suppliers- which reaches far and wide to send quality, wholesome, nutritious products that feed students and other recipients in federal food and nutrition assistance programs.

While the daily activities of contract management mean I am in constant contact with many people within this network, it’s still beneficial to get out and connect with new and existing stakeholders and promote the dual mission of these purchase programs. I recently had the privilege of making some solid connections at the 2014 AMS Annual Industry Meeting for Contractors and Suppliers in USDA’s Commodity Purchase Programs.

Produce Pilot Ready to Take Root in Schools

Whether it’s trying on a new pair of shoes or eating a new item from your favorite restaurant, there’s always a feeling of excitement when you try something new. Here at USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), we get that same feeling when we are able to create new opportunities for our nation’s producers. That’s why we’re excited to announce that AMS and our sister agency—the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS)—have launched a new pilot program for the procurement of unprocessed fruits and vegetables.

The new pilot program—established by the 2014 Farm Bill—is part of USDA’s continued commitment to create and expand opportunities for our nation’s fruit and vegetable producers.  The pilot will open doors for American producers, giving them an additional opportunity to supply quality, fresh fruits and vegetables to schools in up to eight states.

Updated Food Purchasing System Keeps USDA on Top of its Game

In today’s busy world of technological advances, it’s important to both evaluate the paths that have already been taken and find ways to improve upon the progress that’s already been made. This spring, we talked about how the Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) streamlined the purchases for five unique agencies. Earlier this month, the system reached another milestone as it went through an update and re-launch that was on time and within budget.

The system—which was used by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and four other agencies to deliver nearly 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods to programs—is now primed to continue serving hundreds of businesses, states, and program recipients across the country. A multi-agency team of employees worked together on programming, testing, and training, to create an updated system that provides increased flexibility and improved functionality.

Bringing the Best to School Lunches

Top grocery stores and restaurants in the United States guarantee their customers consistently get high quality products through rigorous standards and robust testing and oversight programs. USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is doing essentially the same thing – working to ensure that recipients of federal nutrition assistance programs such as the National School Lunch Program get meat, poultry, egg products, and seafood that match the quality and specifications used by the best commercial firms.

AMS purchases products through a competitive process among approved vendors.  Some of these purchases support American agriculture by providing an outlet for surplus products.  The products are delivered to schools, food banks, and households in communities across the country and are a vital component of our nation’s food safety net.

Bringing the USDA Foods Mission to SNA-ANC 2014!

I love it when business travel doesn’t feel so much like a commitment as it does an adventure. That’s the feeling I had this year (and every year) as I packed my bag and headed to the School Nutrition Association’s Annual National Convention (SNA-ANC) in Boston, MA. I was eager and anticipated a week full of sharing, learning, and exploring with a large number of our stakeholders!

I was excited to share with the audience the mission of the commodity purchase program for my agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The program supports U.S. agricultural markets by stabilizing demand, while providing safe, quality foods to federal nutrition assistance programs. At one end of the supply chain, USDA’s domestic food purchases support markets that America’s farms, ranches, and fisheries rely on. On the other end, the “USDA Foods” that we purchase are a critical element in our nation’s food and nutrition safety net.

USDA Foods Get Even Greener

St. Patrick’s Day might be over, but at USDA we’re still sporting our green.  That’s because of the success of one food in particular—a vegetable underdog: broccoli!  As one of the newest additions to the USDA Foods lineup, AMS purchased 6.87 million pounds (nearly $7.6 million) of broccoli during FY 2013, and FY 2014 purchasing has been even more robust.

Each year, the AMS Commodity Procurement Staff (AMS-CP) spends nearly $2 billion on 2 billion pounds of frozen, processed, and fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish and eggs, otherwise known as USDA Foods.  The AMS-CP mission is to support American agriculture and promote domestic production by purchasing commodities, while meeting the needs of federal food assistance programs across the country.

The Domino Effect of One Purchase

Sometimes one action can have a ripple effect—an impact that spreads outward, touching much more than just the immediate surroundings.  We see it all the time in the process of agriculture. Weather changes crop yields, then ripples through the supply chain, impacting everything from the local economy to the national average of transportation costs.  Sometimes the ripple effect is set off by something as simple as buying apples.

My agency, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), buys food for nutrition programs like the National School Lunch Program and food assistance programs like food banks.  The obvious impacts, or ripple effects, of these purchases are benefits to our nation’s children and putting food on the tables of those who are struggling to make ends meet.  But the ripple effect of these purchases doesn’t stop there.

Hunger Knows No Season

There is no “off-season” for the nearly 15% of people in this country facing hunger. Although demand remains high all year round, many of the nation’s food banks experience a major decline in donations during the summer months. USDA programs, however, work year-round to help those affected by hunger.

Through The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), USDA helps those in need by purchasing items for food banks and community service organizations. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) Commodity Procurement staff coordinates with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to send quality, wholesome foods to these establishments. In FY 2013, AMS purchased more than 212 million pounds of food for TEFAP.