The federal agencies responsible for inspecting agricultural imports at national ports of entry lack sufficient staff and training, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have failed to document progress on their own strategic plan. These are among the findings of a Government Accountability Office report on imported agriculture inspections, released Tuesday.
USDA announced Wednesday plans to spend at least $6 billion on new pandemic aid programs that reach a broader swath of producers than previous efforts, while putting “a greater emphasis on outreach to small and socially disadvantaged producers, specialty crop and organic producers (and) timber harvesters.”
In the early days and weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand at the nation’s food banks swelled. It’s gone down and up over the year, and in many places remains higher today than the baseline before the pandemic.
The USDA keeps a tight lid on the amount of foreign sugar that enters the U.S., and the department is keeping a close eye on whether it will need to allow more into the country if consumer demand increases as the COVID-19 pandemic loosens its grasp on Americans.
Many ag jobs got designated “essential” at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. A year later, masks and other safety precautions have become common in fields and packing houses. Food continues to move from the farm to the consumer. But impacts on the people making that happen have been significant.
Democrats win Senate approval of President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package after modifying some provisions to assuage party moderates but preserving historic debt relief for minority farmers that Republicans tried to strip from the bill.