COLUMBUS, Ohio — The coronavirus pandemic exposed a weakness within the U.S. food supply chain. The United States Department of Agriculture aims to strengthen the system by injecting more than $4 billion into a number of priorities.

What You Need To Know

  • The USDA is investing more than $4 billion to strengthen the U.S. food system    

  • Priorities include food production, processing, distribution and consumer health

  • Each week, Ringwalt and Andy Vance discuss a topic of concern involving agriculture

The plan is a part of the Biden Administration's Build Back Better initiative. According to the USDA, the effort will benefit the food system, create new market opportunities, tackle the climate crisis, help communities that have been left behind and support good-paying jobs throughout the supply chain.

“The COVID-19 pandemic led to massive disruption for growers and food workers. It exposed a food system that was rigid, consolidated, and fragile. Meanwhile, those growing, processing, and preparing our food are earning less each year in a system that rewards size over all else,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

"There's about four different areas where they're focusing," Spectrum News agriculture expert Andy Vance said.

Vance said the "broad buckets" include food production, processing, aggregation and distribution as well as markets and consumers.

"They're going to do things there like increasing opportunities for direct investment, whether that be USDA loan programs or grants to help farmers," he said.

Vance said the plan is to ultimately improve the supply chain.

"Making the supply chain more resilient, more robust," he said. "Some of the things we learned from the coronavirus and the shutdowns early on and you think about going to the store and things were out of stock. The USDA is trying to figure out how to improve and make that supply chain more robust."

One area of focus includes meat processing.

"The USDA is going to invest some money and try to encourage more local and regional slaughter capacity, which I think a lot of producers and consumers in Ohio would be really excited about," he said. "

Funding comes from the American Rescue Plan Act and earlier pandemic assistance.