Tracking commodity purchases by the U.S. Department of Agriculture is not as easy as waiting for weekly updates any more.

I inquired with the agency after a period of time had gone by with no updates to the UDSA’s report of weekly commodity purchases.

April 19 of this year was the last time a weekly report was filed, so I asked the agency the reason behind the delay.

Hakim Fobia, public affairs specialist with the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, said the report was axed to save on manpower and resources.

From his email:

"We decided to discontinue the Weekly Purchase spreadsheets because it was created manually, requiring many staff hours to create. In its place, the information can be found in the Purchase Summaries Report (PDF), which shows cumulative purchases that are updated weekly by product group. If you haven’t already, we also suggest that you subscribe to the AMS CP News, where you can get information on the solicitations and awards as they are released. You can subscribe to the information that you are interested in."

So there you have it; the commodities purchase summary page is now the place to go to follow USDA purchases through the fiscal year. Another valuable link is the page showing fresh fruit and vegetable solicitations and purchase awards by the USDA.

A quick look at the summary report shows that the USDA has purchased about $3.55 million of fresh tomatoes so far in this fiscal year (beginning Oct. 1 of last year through June 28), down from $3.78 million in fiscal year 2012 but way up from $370,000 in fresh tomato purchases in fiscal year 2011.

USDA AMS purchases of fresh apples have totaled $1.66 million so far this fiscal year, up from $694,000 in fiscal year 2012 and $1.05 million in fiscal year 2011.

Surprisingly, the USDA has purchased no fresh cut apples so far in fiscal year 2013, compared with $725,000 in purchases in fiscal year 2012 and $2.1 million in fresh cut apple buys in fiscal year 2011.

Fresh carrot purchases only have tallied $96,000 so far fiscal year, down from $290,000 in fiscal year 2012 and $768,000 in fiscal year 2011.

Fresh potato purchases (excluding bulk fresh) totaled $5.7 million in fiscal year 2013, up from $2.5 million in fiscal year 2012 and substantially higher than $3.4 million in fiscal year 2011.

These fresh produce purchases are helping feed our nation's youngsters. Hearkening back to the days of the peanut butter and jelly sandwhich,  one reader of my coverage on the USDA new competitive food rule takes excception to government expenditures on fresh produce. Check out the story and comment at this link.