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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.

Did YOU Know that the USDA Emergency Food Assistance Program Helps Families Affected by Disasters?

September is National Preparedness Month, a time to evaluate the many ways that we can prepare our families and communities before, during, and after a disaster or emergency. Whether they come in the form of a hurricane, earthquake or drought, being prepared is the best defense against long-term, negative impacts. One of the ways USDA supports disaster victims is by supplying food for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). These purchases not only help those unfortunate enough to be affected by the disaster, they also put to use the abundance of foods produced by American farmers and processors.

Through our Commodity Procurement Program, USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) makes purchases for household federal food programs like TEFAP. Some of the food that supplies this program, which is administered by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), comes from the AMS bonus buy program.

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.

USDA's Innovative Technology Streamlines Federal Food Purchasing Logistics

Logistics is not just a fancy buzz word; it is the oil that keeps the engine of an interconnected global market running smoothly. For U.S. food purchasing agencies, logistics means ordering, procuring, and delivering nearly 8.5 billion pounds of domestically-produced foods by successfully awarding nearly $3 billion in contracts during the last fiscal year. It means using the Web-Based Supply Chain Management System (WBSCM) – a tool developed by USDA that helped hundreds of companies deliver quality foods to recipients in the National School Lunch Program, other federal food assistance programs and even victims of disasters.

Before it could facilitate the ordering and delivery of all these foods, WBSCM had to integrate the business processes and needs of recipient agencies, external vendors/contractors and employees from five agencies with unique missions. The Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), Farm Service Agency (FSA) and Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) are all USDA agencies, while the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is an entirely different department. Creating a system that successfully tracks data covering the entire process – from gathering orders and soliciting bids to making sure that vendors are paid – was not an easy task. It requires a reliable, flexible system and an efficient staff to make it all come together.

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.

USDA and the HACU National Internship Program: A Recipe for Success

Reach one, teach one. That is the approach that USDA has taken in its partnership with the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) National Internship Program. As a current employee with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) and a former HACU intern, I am glad to help continue this tradition.

The HACU National Internship Program helps talented students in more than 400 colleges and universities gain valuable experience through paid internships at federal, private, and non-profit organizations. USDA has been a leading organization working with the program, hosting nearly 1900 HACU student interns since 1994. I am part of the nearly 46% of former HACU interns who earned the opportunity to stay on board with the federal government after finishing my degree.