Farmer cooperatives hope a new “Made in America” directive from the Biden administration will lead to more U.S. products being used in the nation’s school lunch program.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order Monday to bolster the administration’s domestic procurement practices across a variety of sectors and create a specific role in the White House Office of Management and Budget for oversight.

Biden said the action would “invest in American workers, unions, and businesses up and down the supply chain.” He also referenced previous efforts on the subject by the Trump administration, but said his would go further.

“We’re setting clear directives and clear explanations,” he said. “We’re going to go to the core issue with a centralized, coordinated effort.”

For agriculture, the hope is that effort will lead to more American produce on lunch trays.

According to figures from the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, 81% of the apple juice served in the school lunch program is imported and 50-60% of the fish served in schools is “caught by Russian ships and processed in China.”

Chuck Conner, NCFC’s president and CEO, said the Trump administration “started by making a similar show of support for these provisions, but failed to put substance and action behind its words.”

“Sourcing non-U.S. foods — even when competitively priced domestic alternatives are available — not only runs counter to the law, but destroys jobs across the value chain, especially in fruit and vegetable processing, which employs over 1.5 million Americans,” Conner said. “We look forward to working with the new official at OMB providing oversight to these programs to ensure that we see fewer of the examples mentioned above in the future.”

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NCFC and the California Canning Peach Association both pointed to issues with serving canned Chinese peaches in 26 states, including in Georgia and California, the top two peach states in the country.

“We should not be contracting to spend U.S. taxpayer money to purchase foreign sourced fruits and vegetables when the American farmer and worker is fighting to survive,” CCPA President and CEO Rich Hudgins said in a statement.  

The United Food and Commercial Workers, a union representing workers at grocery stores and processing facilities, lauded the move to boost domestic procurement, saying the move would support American workers like its members.

“President Biden’s new Buy American executive order not only reflects a commitment to worker safety that had been lacking in years past, it further ensures that taxpayer dollars from federal contracts go to companies that support good-paying union jobs,” said UFCW International President Marc Perrone.

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