Packer 25 2020 — Bruce Summers
COVID-19 has been no match for Bruce Summers or the agency he serves as administrator: the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
It has been a big part of Summers’ job to ensure that AMS has experienced no break in continuity of services to the industry during the pandemic.
And there hasn’t been, he says.
“We quickly implemented new processes to ensure that, despite the ongoing COVID-19 challenges, the AMS team can continue to provide inspection and audit services that help protect the food supply chain; supply free, unbiased price and sales data to assist in the marketing and distribution of farm commodities; and enable domestic and international marketing of U.S. agricultural products,” he said.
One example of this occurred over the summer, when the Specialty Crops Inspection Division deployed a rapid response team of inspectors and federal program managers to Nogales, Ariz., to ensure uninterrupted trade of Mexican tomatoes and table grapes when state cooperators were unable to meet inspection demand due to pandemic-related illnesses and absences, Summers said.
In all, the federal and state team conducted over 9,700 tomato inspections and delivered more than 1,900 certificates on 2,000 truckloads of table grapes via the Nogales border crossing in record time, he said.
Another example occurred when the walnut marketing order had the first ever AMS hearing conducted through Zoom. AMS staffers worked with industry, the judge and others to assure the legality of the process and the transparency needed to conduct the successful hearing and continue operations for the marketing order.AMS has purchased more than $1 billion worth of fruits and vegetables for the highly successful
USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program that supports growers and “moves food to where it’s needed most,” Summers said.
Summers’ efforts during the pandemic have earned him high praise from supervisors such as Greg Ibach, Under Secretary of marketing and regulatory programs.
“Bruce’s leadership also has been instrumental in the rapid development and implementation of the unprecedented $4 billion Farmers to Families Food Box Program,” Ibach said.
“This effort designed by (Agriculture) Secretary Perdue...is providing critical support to farmers, distributors, and American families in need.
To date, the program has delivered more than 86 million food boxes to American families in need.”
Distributors then package products and ship them them to food banks, community and faith-based organizations, and other nonprofits. AMS also supports the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program by using market news and other data to analyze losses and provide vital information to determine payments to growers.
“These payments provide vital financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who have suffered a 5%-or-greater price decline or who had losses due to market supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19 and face additional significant marketing costs,” Summers said
A native of Moscow, Idaho, Summers, 57, comes from a multi-generational farming family in southern Idaho. He earned a bachelor of science degree in agricultural and resource economics at the University of Maryland.
Summers started working with fruits and vegetables as a research assistant on the University of Maryland Research Farm in the 1980s, then launched his career at USDA soon after finishing his degree. His first job was investigator for the agency’s Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act Branch.
With AMS, Summers works to maintain the agency’s focus on helping the produce industry “provide the freshest and highest quality fruits, vegetables, nuts and other specialty crops to consumers around the world,” he said.
“Over the years, we have developed and refined services to help growers, shippers, wholesalers, retailers and others in the marketing chain do this as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said.
Summers said his AMS experience provided “unique perspective” as a leader.
“I have gained first-hand knowledge of much of our work over the years, and I have also had the opportunity to learn from my peers who have also dedicated their careers to serving U.S. agriculture,” he said.
“I believe AMS is successful because we prioritize customer service, focus on innovation and improvements, and we always work as a team to find solutions.”