WASHINGTON — While President Donald Trump continues to take action during this COVID-19 National Emergency and enact measures to ensure Americans are safe, secure, and healthy, the USDA announced that it continues to be open for business to provide services to the American people.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue recorded a video message reassuring the American people that the U.S. supply chain remains strong. It can be seen here — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kJjNtYxJAQ&feature=youtu.be
Additionally, the secretary thanked those on the front lines of the American food supply: folks stocking the shelves of local grocery stores, truck drivers keeping supply networks open and functioning, food service workers in kitchens across the country preparing the products at markets, school lunch workers keeping America’s families and children fed during closures, and USDA’s food safety inspectors ensuring the food we eat is safe, healthy, and nutritious.
While USDA has moved to an enhanced telework posture during the Coronavirus National Emergency, services to the American people continue. Among those services include, but are not limited to:
Food Safety Inspections Service (FSIS):
- Meat, poultry, and processed egg inspection services continue as normal.
- Planning for absenteeism is a part of normal FSIS operations and as such, FSIS is closely monitoring and tracking employee absenteeism to plan for and minimize impacts to operations.
- FSIS is also working to prioritize inspection at establishments based on local conditions and resources available.
- USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach and USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Dr. Mindy Brashears issued a letter to stakeholders reassuring them that FSIS and AMS are rising to meet the challenges associated with COVID-19.
Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS):
- APHIS and AMS continue to provide critical inspections and grading services.
- APHIS and AMS are ensuring the health and safety of USDA employees while still providing the timely delivery of the services to maintain the movement of America’s food supply moving from farms to forks.
- APHIS and AMS are prepared to remedy any possible disruptions in their services.
- Commodity markets can be assured that the USDA will keep America’s food supply safe as well as abundant during this national emergency.
- AMS will continue to report commodity prices through its market news service.
Food and Nutrition Service (FNS):
- On March 17, Perdue announced a collaboration with the Baylor Collaborative on Hunger and Poverty, McLane Global, PepsiCo, and others to deliver nearly 1,000,000 meals per week to students in a limited number of rural schools closed due to COVID-19. These boxes will contain five days’ worth of shelf-stable, nutritious, individually packaged foods that meet USDA’s summer food requirements. The use of this innovative delivery system will ensure rural children receive nutritious food while limiting exposure to COVID-19.
- Perdue also announced proactive flexibilities to allow meal service during school closures to minimize potential exposure to the coronavirus. During an unexpected school closure, schools can leverage their participation in one of USDA’s meal programs to provide meals at no cost to students. Under normal circumstances, those meals must be served in a group setting. However, in a public health emergency, the law allows USDA the authority to waive the group setting meal requirement, which is vital during a social distancing situation.
- USDA is using all available program flexibilities and contingencies to serve our program participants across our 15 nutrition programs. We have already begun to issue waivers to ease program operations and protect the health of participants. As of today, USDA has been asked to waive congregate feeding requirements in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico; USDA has granted those requests.
Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS):
- FAS has plans and workplace flexibilities in place to ensure that it can continue to deliver on its mission of creating global trade opportunities for the producers and exporters of American farm and food products.
- These efforts include continued monitoring and reporting on U.S. agricultural exports, global agricultural trade, and trade policy priorities such as implementation of the U.S.-China Phase One Economic and Trade Agreement.
More information from USDA regarding coronavirus can be obtained at www.usda.gov/coronavirus.
And, information directly from the CDC can be found at www.coronavirus.gov.