More Americans are about to have access to freshly grown vegetables and fruits, thanks to a new bill called the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act.

If it makes its way through the legislative process, the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act will help strengthen the connection between the USDA, American farms, and the national produce supply chain. Essentially, it’s a produce-purchasing program that aims to distribute fresh food to those who need it most. Introduced to Congress on September 21, the bill has been championed by a bipartisan group of US senators and representatives, including the San Joaquin Valley’s own congressman, David Valadao.

“We need to ensure our food-insecure residents in the Central Valley have access to the fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables we grow right in our own backyard,” says Congressman Valadao, who’s been representing the area for more than a decade. “This bill not only helps our neighbors in need, but it also helps our domestic agriculture sector by ensuring the produce they grow is being put to good use.”

An earlier version of the bill — the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act of 2021 — was introduced two years earlier but never made it past the House of Representatives, whose members failed to vote on the act. The current bill features a number of revisions, which its supporters hope will help speed its way through the ratification process.

For starters, produce will now be purchased from a wide range of growers and distributors, focusing not on large-scale operations but on “veteran, women-owned and socially disadvantaged members of the agriculture community.” In other words, the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act won’t just help the people who receive the food — it’ll help the mid-size companies that grow it, too. Once purchased, the food will be distributed to “local food banks, schools, youth-serving organizations, tribal governments, and other nonprofit community members serving nutrition-insecure populations.”

The USDA already spends $6 billion every year on American-made food that is distributed to citizens through a variety of programs, including Emergency Food Assistance and National School Lunch Programs. Even so, much of that food is processed, and virtually all of is it shelf-stable. The amount of money that’s spent on fresh food is much smaller — around $5 million — and there hasn’t been much of an effort to source those fresh fruits and vegetables from regional farmers.

That’s why the Fresh Produce Procurement Reform Act is so important not only to the agricultural sector, but to Americans who are hungry, disadvantaged, and unable to find locally grown items. It’s a bill that serves farms and food banks. If passed, it’ll have an overwhelming positive effect on agricultural hubs like the San Joaquin Valley.

“I’m proud to join my colleagues to introduce this bipartisan bill that will strengthen our agriculture economy and make fresh produce more widely available to those in need,” says Congressman David Valadao.

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