By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON, D.C. (DTN) -- Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Environmental Protection Agency Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb on Thursday signed a joint agency agreement aimed at educating Americans on the impacts and importance of reducing food loss and waste.
The signing took place in a ceremony at USDA headquarters.
The three-agency agreement commits USDA, EPA and FDA "to increasing collaboration and coordination in our existing federal programs in areas of mutual interest relating to the reduction of food loss and waste" for two years, but does not involve any financial obligations.
In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30 percent to 40 percent of the food supply, the three agency heads noted in a news release. Food waste is the largest category of material that ends up in landfills at more than 75 billion pounds a year.
"An unacceptable percentage of our food supply is lost or wasted," Perdue said. "As the world's population continues to grow and the food systems continue to evolve, now is the time for action to educate consumers and businesses alike on the need for food waste reduction."
USDA states the department is taking on several efforts to reduce food waste, which includes educating consumers about the problem of waste and improved food storage. Looking at post-harvest waste, USDA expanded a farm storage loan program in 2015 and expanded the commodities eligible for the loans. Since 2000, $2 billion in such loans have increased storage capacity by enough to store 1 billion bushels of grain.
The federal agencies' effort comes as cities have made their own initiatives to reduce food waste in different ways. New York, San Francisco and Austin, Texas, are among cities that have passed ordinances to reduce food waste from restaurants through composting programs, according to a recent Newsweek article. https://www.newsweek.com/…
Under the formal agreement, each agency will work to align its strategies on food waste to better work together. USDA and EPA already had programs called the Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions but the agencies stated more work is needed.
"Redirecting excess food to people, animals, or energy production has tremendous economic and social benefits," Wheeler said, "and that is why the Trump administration is working closely with businesses and consumers to prevent food loss and maximize the inherent value of food."
Gottlieb said steps taken to deal with obstacles in food donation and recovery programs should offer more opportunities to resell or donate foods.
"By taking steps to address obstacles that food donation and recovery programs may face in giving unsold foods a second opportunity and helping food producers find ways to recondition their products so that they can be safely sold or donated, our aim is to both reduce food waste and nourish Americans in need," Gottlieb said.
In a separate move on Friday, FDA also announced new efforts to help producer farmers and processors deal with regulatory requirements under the Food Safety Modernization Act. FDA released two new, draft guidance documents, both of which are extensive in detail, that FDA sees as helping farmers better understand the range of steps they can take to comply with the Produce Safety Rule. The other will help processors better understand the relevant provisions of the Preventive Controls Rule for fresh-cut produce that apply to their practices. To simplify some of the guidelines, FDA also released summary "at-a-glance" points for the new documents. More details on the FDA guidance can be found at https://www.fda.gov/…
Details on USDA's activities on food-loss prevention: https://www.usda.gov/…
EPA's Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions: https://www.epa.gov/…
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this report.
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport
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