With milk being dumped in recent weeks, cattle unable to find markets, and companies such as Tyson Foods issuing warnings about the future of our food supply, presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden took a jab at the president by saying that the U.S. is not currently facing a food shortage problem but rather “a leadership problem.” Frankly, it’s surprising it’s taken this long for food production to come to the forefront as a point of conflict between Biden and President Donald Trump.
During a virtual town hall put on by Yahoo News, Biden lamented the state of the U.S. food distribution network and said many people are missing out on proper nutrition during the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that there has been a missed opportunity to work aggressively to get food more directly from farm to consumers, which would have worked to the benefit of all sides.
“We have plenty of food, it’s being plowed under,” Biden said. “The president could have ordered the government to buy food from farmers and send it to food banks.”
It’s important to note that as consolidation in the agricultural industry has happened, the closing of one distribution site or one beef or dairy processing facility can have a much larger ripple effect today than it would have a generation ago. Quickly adapting to a new supply chain or redirecting a food product is no easy task — trucking needs, storage facilities, and individual containers and packaging have to be considered, and it all takes money to make happen. Even many mom-and-pop butcher shops are reported to have months-long backlogs of meat processing to take care of, so shifting even more of the weight to their shoulders isn’t simple if a larger processing facility nearby closes.
But that’s where Biden argues that better high-level leadership has been needed and better resource allocation should have been implemented.
“All the money that the Congress has passed to help people in this dire need is not going to the right people,” Biden said, according to Yahoo News. “It’s not getting to those mom-and-pop stores. It’s not getting to people who need to be able to pay workers to stay on the payroll. It’s not getting to people who need relief and so it’s just not being done very well at all.”
The virtual town hall that Biden spoke at focused on food security issues. He was joined at the town hall by chef and food activist José Andrés, who was entwined in a legal spat with Trump in 2015 over Andrés’ plans to open a restaurant in the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.