Biden to devote $2.1 bln of new funds to strengthen US food supply chain

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The Biden Administration on Wednesday will announce $2.1 billion in new funding to bolster food supply chains, including initiatives to expand small- and mid-sized processing plants, according to a US Department of Agriculture official.

Funds will also be used to finance new infrastructure such as cold storage facilities and to assist farmers shifting to organic production, the official said.

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A nationwide shortage of baby formula following the shutdown of a single Abbott Labs production facility, empty grocery shelves during early phases of the Covid pandemic and soaring food prices over the past year have underscored weaknesses in the country’s food supply chains.

Grocery prices in April were up 10.8 percent from a year earlier, the highest annual increase since November 1980, when Jimmy Carter was in the White House.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plans to focus on the importance of moving US food supplies away from dominance by a few highly concentrated businesses and addressing climate change challenges in announcing a “framework for strengthening supply chains.”

“A transformed food system is part of how we as a country become more resilient,” Vilsack will say, according to prepared remarks.

Vilsack will announce initiatives including $600 million in assistance for independently owned supply-chain infrastructure such as cold storage facilities and refrigerated trucks. The infrastructure aid will come on top of funding Biden announced earlier this year to assist expansion of independent processors in the highly concentrated meatpacking industry.

The USDA also will announce $400 million to create regional food business centers to support small- and mid-sized farms and food processors, $300 million to assist farms transitioning to organic production and a $155 million increase for a program to promote healthy options in “food deserts underserved by grocery stores.”

Funding for the initiatives will come from the Biden-backed $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan Congress passed last year “and other relief legislation,” according to advance material the USDA provided to reporters.

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