Increased USDA funding and the America COMPETES Act will strengthen American supply chains and food systems.
Sadie Bograd, Staff Reporter
After nearly two years of pandemic-caused supply chain disruptions, new federal policies could help New Haven businesses and consumers access the resources they need.
Representative Rosa DeLauro and Mayor Justin Elicker celebrated the America COMPETES Act and the USDA Rebuilds Better initiative during a press conference at the Italian restaurant Brazi on Monday morning. The COMPETES Act increases spending and protections for U.S. manufacturing with a particular focus on domestic semiconductor production. The USDA Build Back Better initiative — which is unrelated to President Joe Biden’s initiative of the same name — will invest up to $1 billion in food infrastructure, local agriculture and food aid in emergency.
“Both laws were established to strengthen, to protect American supply chains,” DeLauro said at the press conference.
These policies are particularly focused on local and regional businesses, according to DeLauro and Elicker. DeLauro said the Build Back Better initiative will include a range of grants, loans and other financing mechanisms for small operators so that it’s not just “big agribusinesses that benefit.” She added that the COMPETES Act includes provisions to prevent critical manufacturing capabilities from moving overseas.
Running a small business, while always a challenge, has been made even more difficult during the pandemic, DeLauro said. She listed a series of difficulties faced by entrepreneurs, including “sick workers and then loss of production, transport delays, lost inventory, unpredictable demand”. She also noted the impact these supply chain disruptions have had on consumers: empty shelves in grocery stores and rising prices at a time when more and more families are living paycheck to paycheck. ‘other.
Several small business owners have confirmed DeLauro’s description of the difficulties they have faced since 2020. Although raw materials are still being produced, their distribution networks have collapsed due to COVID-19.
“We have an abundance of supplies,” Jay Pallotti, president of Lamberti’s Italian Sausage, said at the press conference. “But getting them to me and everyone else has been the challenge.”
Lamberti explained that it’s not just the obvious inputs, like pork and chicken, that have been harder to access during the pandemic. Nitrile gloves, trays, plastic wraps and other packaging materials have all become more expensive. Refrigerated trucks are harder to find; fewer people unload trucks and ships. All these increased costs, he said, lead to an increase in the final price for customers.
Nonprofit organizations that address food insecurity have also faced supply chain challenges. Connecticut Foodshare, a nonprofit that provides food to emergency meal programs and food pantries, received 75% of its food donations from grocery stores, according to President Jason Jakubowski. In early March, that number fell to zero overnight.
“They’ve had enough trouble keeping food on their shelves,” Jakubowski said during the talk. “Even to this day, there are shortages in many different products. So with this background falling on us, we ended up having to go out and buy some food.
Although the nonprofit received more donations during the pandemic, it was also spending more than ever to supply its partners.
Build Back Better will spend up to $600 million on emergency food aid programs and food banks. It will also invest in food production, processing, distribution and markets to avoid future supply bottlenecks and transportation problems.
Elicker said these investments are not only good for small businesses, they are also crucial for the national economy.
These programs “focus on investing in small businesses because the more small businesses that are resilient and flexible and have the training and technology they need, the more resilient our overall economy is,” Elicker said. . “If we rely on large global conglomerates, we are less flexible, less skilful.”
The COMPETES Act was passed by the Senate and the House in different versions that must be reconciled before being enacted. DeLauro told the News that more specific information about the USDA investments will be announced in the coming weeks, but she doesn’t know how much money New Haven will receive specifically.
17% of New Haven adults have used a food bank since February 2020, according to the DataHaven Community Wellness Survey.