WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2023 – President Biden is delivering on his promises to build a better America and rebuild the backbone of the country, the middle class. As the 2023 State of the Union approaches, it is clear that President Biden’s plan to lower costs for families and grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out is working – we’ve seen the strongest two years of job growth in U.S. history, wages are up, inflation is moderating and the administration is making the biggest investment in America’s infrastructure since the 1950s. As part of this tremendous impact, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) continues its efforts to build more and better markets for American agriculture, provide food and nutrition security, advance climate-smart agriculture, and ensure that USDA programs and services are accessible to all Americans.
“President Biden has passed a historic economic agenda to rebuild our infrastructure, supply chains, and manufacturing and reduce costs for families,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “As part of these historic achievements, USDA is working to build the economy from the bottom up and the middle out and, transform our food system so that it works for everyone and creates economic opportunity for all of our farmers, ranchers, and foresters, not just the few.”
Over the past two years, President Biden’s groundbreaking legislation has laid the foundation for a future that lifts up all Americans. The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided USDA with more than $1 billion in funds to ensure underserved producers have the resources, tools, programs, and technical support they need to succeed; Passed in August 2022, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build critical infrastructure, protect communities from wildfire and extreme heat, and drive climate-smart agriculture and renewable energy initiatives nationwide; Through the landmark Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), USDA fixes roads and bridges, improves water quality, brings affordable, high-speed internet access to rural areas, and makes climate-smart investments in partnership with agriculture, forestry, tribes, businesses, and communities. These historic pieces of legislation and funding opportunities offer a framework to build a profitable, sustainable, and resilient economy that benefits small, mid-sized, and large producers, alike.
Here is a look at USDA actions in 2022 to help more people benefit from economic growth, tackle climate change, create good-paying jobs for American workers, and invest in our families. We are supporting small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers to build and maintain successful, profitable businesses and stay on the land, speeding the transition to a circular economy, rather than one based on extracting resources from rural areas.
Food System Transformation: USDA is transforming the food system and improving the resilience and security of the food supply chain through more than 60 programs so that today’s markets work better for family farmers and the families they support. This multi-billion dollar effort is funded largely by ARP with some additional investments from the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 (CAA), the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). It touches all parts of the food supply chain – from food production, food processing, food aggregation and distribution, to consumers. Select programs include:
- More than $1 billion in investments for food processing, distribution and aggregation infrastructure, including funding to expand and diversify independent meat and poultry processing capacity and addressing the credit access gap for meat and poultry processing projects.
- Since implementing ARP, more than 2,800 small and very small businesses received $33 million in credits and refunds to help with holiday and overtime fees for FSIS inspection services. About 266 small businesses saw opportunities for expanded markets and 22 are building or expanding processing facilities in 2022.
- USDA is tackling pandemic-related shipping disruptions. At the Port of Houston – the sixth busiest container gateway in the U.S. – USDA is increasing capacity for exporting chilled and frozen U.S. agricultural commodities. USDA also partnered with Northwest Seaport Alliance to create pop-up sites at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma (the fourth-largest container gateway in the U.S.) to store commodities so they’re ready for the next available ship.
- The Farm and Food Workers Relief Grant Program will make beneficiary payments to reach at least 1 million farmworkers, meatpacking workers, and front-line grocery workers who incurred pandemic-related health and safety costs.
- Organic Transition Initiative: USDA launched a $300 million Organic Transition Initiative including establishing the Transition to Organic Partnership Program (TOPP) in six regions across the U.S. as part of USDA’s Organic Transition Initiative to help transitioning and recently transitioned producers who face technical, cultural, and market shifts during the transition period and the first few years of organic certification.
- Local Procurement: Using $1.1 billion of American Rescue Plan and Commodity Credit Corporation funding for the Local Food Purchase Assistance Cooperative Agreement Program (LFPA) which uses non-competitive cooperative agreements with state and tribal governments to procure and distribute local and regional foods and beverages that are healthy, nutritious, and unique to their geographic area. The funding also was used for the Local Food for Schools Cooperative Agreement Program (LFS), which strengthened the food system for schools by helping to build a fair, competitive, and resilient local food chain, and expand local and regional markets with an emphasis on purchasing from historically underserved producers and processors.
Climate-Smart Agriculture and Forestry: Climate change is happening, and America’s rural communities are on the frontlines. USDA is leading the way through climate-smart solutions that will improve the profitability and resilience of producers and foresters, open new market opportunities, and build wealth that stays in rural communities.
- Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities: USDA launched Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities, which is revolutionizing agriculture’s ability to contribute to our national and international climate goals. USDA is investing more than $3.1 billion for 141 projects to support the production and marketing of climate-smart commodities through this effort. All of the projects will require meaningful involvement of small and underserved producers. The projects will:
- Create hundreds of expanded markets and revenue streams for farmers and ranchers and commodities across agriculture and forestry ranging from traditional corn to specialty crops.
- Reach more than 60,000 farms, encompassing more than 25 million acres of working land engaged in climate-smart production practices, like cover crops, no-till and nutrient management, as well as pasture and forestry management.
- Sequester more than 60 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent over the lives of the projects. This is equivalent to removing more than 12 million gasoline-powered passenger vehicles from the road for one year.
- Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Investments in Conservation and Forestry: USDA enhanced its mission to protect communities from the risks of extreme wildfires, conserve forests with significant carbon sequestration benefits, and provide communities the resources and tools they need to prepare for and adapt to a changing climate.
- Wildland Firefighter Support: With nearly $500 million in (BIL) funding, USDA increased wildland firefighter pay by as much as $20,000 a year, converted temporary positions to permanent positions, expanded mental health support, and announced efforts to establish a Wildland Firefighter Occupational Series.
- Community Wildfire Defense Program: With support from the National Association of State Foresters and Intertribal Timber Council, USDA’s Forest Service will issue $1 billion in grants over the next five years to reduce wildfire risk for at-risk communities, including tribal communities, non-profit organizations, state forestry agencies and Alaska Native corporations.
- USDA’s Office of the Chief Economist (OCE) Office of Energy and Environmental Policy coordinated the preparation and July 2022 release of 13 Agency-level Climate Adaptation Plans. These plans build on the Department-wide Action Plan for Climate Adaptation and Resilience, while identifying climate risks unique to each agency. Agencies are moving forward with implementation, weaving climate adaptation into existing workstreams and processes while laying the groundwork for future work.
- In FY22, OCE established the Department’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Assessment Program. This program is establishing state-of-the-science metrics for quantifying greenhouse gas (GHG) sources and sinks and linking these metrics to Department-wide efforts to mitigate climate change. The system will track and assess progress being made nationally and will develop and update projections and forecasts of GHG sources and sinks for use in policy and decision-making.
More and Better Markets: Trade is critical to the future of our farmers and ranchers. USDA is working to remove unfair barriers to trade and enable more market opportunities and more profit for American producers.
- Ag exports and record farm income: To continue to diversify and secure market opportunities for U.S. agriculture, USDA has focused on maintaining existing and reaching new markets abroad for U.S. ag exports. In 2022 agricultural exports reached a record high of $196 billion. 2022 also included a record $160.5 billion in net farm income, despite a steep climb in input costs and other expenses. Average net farm income for farm businesses is forecast to be $110,600, an increase of 8.9 percent from 2021 in nominal terms.
- USDA resumed agribusiness trade missions in 2022 after a two-year pause due to the pandemic, connecting U.S. exporters with new business partners and helping grow U.S. exports. These missions reported $42.2 million in 12-month projected sales to date.
- A new online tool called FarmerFairness.gov allows farmers and ranchers to report potentially unfair and anticompetitive practices in the livestock and poultry sectors.
- USDA published a proposed rule under the Packers & Stockyards Act of 1921 to promote market competition and integrity. The rule aims to protect people at higher risk of unjust treatment in the marketplace, ban retaliatory practices; offer protection against deceptive contracts; and better monitor compliance with the Act.
- The first-ever, free USDA Market News Mobile App gives producers instant access to nearly 1,500 market news reports, helping them evaluate market conditions, identify trends, make purchasing decisions, monitor price patterns, and more.
- Expanding International Markets: USDA announced that U.S. can now export potatoes throughout Mexico. The U.S. potato industry estimates that this access for U.S. fresh potatoes to all of Mexico will provide a market potential of $250 million per year, in five years. This is an increase of $190 million from the current export value of $60 million.
Equity: USDA is committed to the values of equity and inclusion rooted in justice and equal opportunity for our employees and those we serve. This includes recognizing opportunities within the Department that ensure underserved groups more fully access and participate in USDA programs and services.
- Assistance for Distressed Producers: USDA provided nearly $800 million in financial assistance to more than 13,000 distressed farmers and plans to provide assistance to thousands more in 2023. This work accompanies an ongoing effort to transform USDA’s farm lending programs with a focus on proactive loan service and support to keep farmers farming, rather than requiring farmers to become distressed before assistance is provided.
- Equity Commission: USDA stood up an Equity Commission comprised of external stakeholders that are undertaking a review of USDA’s programs, policies and practices. The commission will provide USDA with recommendations for how to root out systemic discrimination and create programs and an organization that intentionally centers equity and ensures its programs are accessible to all Americans.
- Through the Equity Action Plan, USDA is taking swift actions in alignment with Executive Order 13985, civil rights laws, and other applicable laws and authorities to advance equity in program design, delivery, and services.
- In August, USDA announced up to $550 million in funding to support projects that enable underserved producers to access land, capital, and markets, and train the next, diverse generation of agricultural professionals.
- Heirs’ property is family land that has been passed down to descendants without a will or deed to prove ownership. Without proof of ownership, it may become difficult for heirs to obtain federal benefits for farms and could force partition sales by third parties. Heirs’ property issues have long been a barrier for many producers and landowners to access USDA programs and services, and USDA’s Heirs’ Property Relending Program (HPRP) provides access to capital to help heirs find a resolution.
- USDA is enhancing tribal self-determination – USDA’s Forest Service highlighted 11 new signed co-stewardship agreements at the 2022 White House Tribal Nations Summit, and has a historic 60 additional co-stewardship agreements in process. Through the Joint Secretarial Order (PDF, 549 KB) promoting increased tribal inclusion in federally managed lands, USDA and the Department of the Interior codified a policy to ensure that tribal governments have a role in decision-making on public lands. This policy enhances the protection of sacred sites and resources, and incorporates traditional Indigenous values and perspectives in land and resource management decisions.
- U.S. agriculture is diverse and the 2022 Census of Agriculture helps to measure that diversity. The census is conducted once every five years and is a complete count of U.S. farms and ranches and the people who operate them (2.8 million producers across the country according to the 2017 Census). It is the only source of uniform, comprehensive, and impartial agriculture data for every state and county in the nation and these important data are used to provide funding, develop programs and make decisions that affect U.S. agriculture. Responses are due by February 6, 2023, and results will be shared in 2024.
Opportunities in Rural America: USDA invested in the rural communities that provide food, fuel, and fiber to our country, and as a result, rural Americans are better able to thrive in the communities they love. In particular, USDA is building on President Biden’s promise to rebuild the physical infrastructure of our country to grow the economy for decades to come, create good-paying jobs, and better position rural America to compete in a global economy.
- In 2022, USDA invested almost $2 billion in expanding access to reliable, high-speed internet for people in rural America, with $548 million coming from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. As a result of this investment, USDA has partnered with rural communities across the nation to increase internet access for 109,000 households, 5,900 businesses, 14,520 farms, 396 educational facilities, 435 essential community facilities, and 51 healthcare facilities.
- USDA invested $380.1 million in Emergency Rural Health Care Grants funded by ARP to provide immediate relief to more than 16 million rural people by supporting 563 rural hospitals and health care clinics across the nation.
Food Safety and Nutrition Security: Through its nutrition assistance programs, USDA is setting the nation on a path of ending hunger, enhancing nutrition, and improving health outcomes in this country. This includes a deep commitment to providing school children access to healthy, nutritious meals that will drive better health and give them the tools to reach their full potential. USDA served 1 in 4 Americans over the course of the year, including the following highlights in 2022:
- More than 41 million Americans participated in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and 2022 marked the first full calendar year that participants received a 21% average increase in monthly SNAP benefits due to USDA’s reevaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan – the first permanent increase to the purchasing power of SNAP benefits since the Thrifty Food Plan was introduced 45 years ago.
- USDA also delivered nearly $3 billion in additional SNAP benefits per month to eligible households via Emergency Allotments, which help working families and seniors especially.
- Around 30 million children participated in the National School Lunch and Breakfast Programs each day, giving them the nutrition they need to succeed in the classroom and beyond. USDA invested historic amounts in our nation’s school meal programs, including nearly $2.5 billion in Supply Chain Assistance Funds for schools to purchase food.
- The Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) served on average nearly 6.3 million low-income participants and is available to millions more who are eligible but do not participate. USDA is recommending science-based updates to the food provided to WIC participants to best meet their nutritional needs and foster healthy growth and development, and is investing in WIC modernization and innovation efforts that will reach more eligible mothers and young children and improve the service they receive throughout their entire experience with the program.
- USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) launched a new initiative to reduce Salmonella illness linked to poultry through a strong, comprehensive framework to address Salmonella in poultry that is responsive to evolving food safety hazards and embraces the latest science and technology.
- USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service is advancing tribal self-determination and awarded $5.7 million to eight tribes for demonstration projects that gave them more options to directly select and purchase foods for their Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). This is an important step to increasing tribal food sovereignty in the program and support tribal economies, vendors, and producers.
Making USDA a great place to work. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to ensuring the civil rights and an equitable employee experience for every employee of the federal government. At USDA, we continue to advance our efforts to make USDA the best place to work and the implementation of our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Strategic Plan (PDF, 1.2 MB). USDA hired a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer and established a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Office (CDIO) within the Office of the Secretary (OSEC). The Department aims to establish enduring policies, structures and resources to recruit and retain a well-trained and diverse workforce committed to its equitable access of programs and funding to all customers.
For more 2022 success stories, visit www.usda.gov/usda-mission-area-agency-accomplishments-2022
USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in so many positive ways. Under the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production, promoting competition and fairer markets for all producers, ensuring access to safe, healthy and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers using climate-smart food and forestry practices, making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America, and committing to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit www.usda.gov.
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