USDA commits to improve equity & fairness, sustainability & rural quality-of-life, but places pandemic control above all else

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The bold proclamations made at USDA’s 97th Agricultural Outlook Forum yesterday shined a light on deeply rooted challenges that have beset the food and agricultural industry for generations, but government representatives and legislators provided scant details about solutions or specific steps beyond those tied to the pandemic.

Indeed, reducing the threat of COVID-19 is “priority number one as the Biden and Harris administration team takes the helm at USDA”​ because it is foundational to meeting all other major social, political and administrative goals, Katharine Ferguson, chief of staff in the office of secretary at USDA, told attendees at the virtual conference.

“We cannot transform our food system; we cannot get our economy back on track; and we cannot rebuild rural America unless we contain COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on our families, our communities and our economy,”​ she said.

To that end, Ferguson explained that USDA has deployed more than 300 people, including dozens of public health specialists from animal and plant health inspection services, to help establish and manage vaccine clinics. It also has committed cold chain infrastructure, disaster response specialists and players in rural and tribal communities across the country.

In addition, she noted, “We have extended an eviction and foreclosure moratorium to USDA multifamily housing residents through March 31st, 2021, providing relief to the tens of thousands of Americans who rely on USDA supported multi-family housing communities.

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