On April 21, the US Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) published a request for comments on supply chains for the production of agricultural commodities and food products under the America’s Supply Chains Executive Order (the “Supply Chain EO”) that President Biden signed on February 24, 2021. (See our blog post on the Supply Chain EO for more background.) Agricultural commodities and food products is one of the six industrial sectors the supply chains of which are subject to review pursuant to the Supply Chain EO. The review has to be complete within one-year period, by the end of which the USDA is to report on the identified supply chain vulnerabilities and proposed policy recommendations to ensure supply chain resilience.

As part of this process, the USDA is requesting comments on a number of issues, including: the processing and distribution, capacity, and access issues associated with food production across all agricultural commodities; geopolitical, human-rights, forced-labor and other risks or other contingencies that may disrupt, strain, compromise, or eliminate the supply chain; the need for research and development capacity; and risk posed by climate change. USDA also specifically requested comments on specific policy recommendations important to transforming the food system and increasing reliance in the supply chain for the agricultural sector. The comments are due on May 21. Companies in this supply chain, including companies that produce or procure food products, should consider taking advantage of this opportunity to provide input into the policymaking process.

The USDA is the fourth US federal government agency that issued a request for comments under the Supply Chain EO. Similarly to the review of agricultural commodities’ and food products’ supply chains, the Supply Chain EO mandated that the Department of Energy (“DOE”) review energy sector industrial base supply chain vulnerabilities within one year of the Supply Chain EO. (In addition, as explained below, the DOE is also to undertake a 100-day review of the high-capacity batteries supply chain.) On April 20, the DOE announced a 100-day cybersecurity initiative for electricity subsector industrial control systems (“100-Day Plan”) and issued a Request for Information (“RFI”) to inform future recommendations for US energy systems’ supply chain security. Although both the 100-Day Plan and the RFI will likely be taken into account in DOE’s review of the energy sector industrial base supply chains; the 100-Day Plan is a direct response to the Supply Chain EO mandate.

Another agency to act in response to the Supply Chain EO is the Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) in the US Commerce Department, which issued a request for comments for the semiconductor supply chain, in addition to hosting a virtual forum last week as an additional outreach effort to gather input from industry and other stakeholders. (See our prior blog post on these developments.) In addition, the Department of Defense (“DOD”) sought comments on vulnerabilities and policy recommendations related to the supply chain in strategic and critical materials, including rare earth elements. (See our blog post on this comments request as well.) Unlike the USDA, both BIS and DOD (as well as the DOE and the Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”)) are required under the Supply Chain EO to complete the review of certain specific supply chains within 100 days. We have not yet heard from the DHHS, which is responsible for the pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical ingredients supply chain, and the DOE has yet to request comments for the high-capacity batteries supply chain (including electric vehicle batteries) review. We may see similar requests for comment or other outreach efforts from these agencies soon.

Key Takeaways

USDA has issued a request for comments on vulnerabilities and policy recommendations related to the supply chain of agricultural commodities and food products. Comments are due on May 21. Companies involved in this supply chain should consider assessing the vulnerabilities in their supply chains and submitting comments to have an opportunity to influence US supply chain policy.