Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Friday that the USDA would spend up to $1.15 billion to bring high-speed internet services to people living in rural communities. The money would be available in loans and grants to providers who offer service with download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second in areas that lack high-speed internet.
The Farmers to Families Food Box giveaway program was the Trump administration's answer to hunger during the pandemic but it undermined its goal by mismanagement and abuse of the $5.5 billion program, said a report released by the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis on Wednesday. The panel chairman, Democrat James Clyburn, suggested the USDA should pursue reimbursement, where appropriate, of misspent money.
The U.S. orange crop will plunge to 3.88 million tons this year, down 12 percent from last season, said the USDA on Tuesday in its first forecast of the new crop. Both of the leading orange states would see large reductions: Florida down by 11 percent and California down by 13 percent.
On a voice vote, the Senate confirmed former New Mexico Rep. Xochitl Torres Small as agriculture undersecretary for rural development. Torres Small is the second Biden nominee for agriculture undersecretary to be approved by the Senate.
Deputy Agriculture Secretary Jewel Bronaugh will co-chair a congressionally approved Equity Commission to address racial discrimination within the USDA and its programs, announced the Agriculture Department. The USDA has been called "the last plantation" because of racial bias in its operations; it paid $2.2 billion to Black farmers and their descendants in the so-called Pigford settlements of 1999 and 2010.
The USDA would create its third version of the food box intended to feed hungry Americans under legislation introduced by House Appropriations chairwoman Rosa DeLauro on Tuesday. The bill would require the USDA to provide boxes of fresh fruit and vegetables to schools, food pantries and youth organizations for distribution.
The presidents of six state farm bureaus asked the USDA to share the cost with farmers of reducing sediment and nutrient runoff into Chesapeake Bay. "We are now at a critical stage in the Chesapeake Bay cleanup," with a 2025 deadline for reducing pollution, said the farm leaders in a letter.
President Biden selected law professor Margo Schlanger, a longtime civil rights advocate, to serve as assistant secretary for civil rights at the USDA, said the White House on Thursday.
The Biden administration appointed Cindy Long as administrator of the Food and Nutrition Service on Monday, a position she has held on an acting basis since early January.