ATTENTION CO-OP DIRECTORS, CHILD NUTRITION DIRECOTRS, CHILD NUTRITION MANAGERS, PRE-SCHOOL DIRECTORS
This memo replaces Arkansas Department of Education Commissioner’s Memo CNU-16-039 related to Buy American Provision in the Child Nutrition Programs.
Compliance with, and monitoring of, the Buy American provision by School Food Authority (SFAs). To ensure compliance with the Buy American provision the SFA must ensure solicitation and contract language includes the requirement for domestic agricultural commodities and products. The SFA must also include the Buy American requirement in its documented procurement procedures and retain records documenting any exceptions. SFAs should ask the supplier, i.e., manufacturer or distributor, for specific information about the percentage of U.S. content in any processed end product. In order for SFAs to be able to document the domestic content, they should include in their procurement process a requirement for certifying the domestic percentage of the agricultural food component of commodities and products.
Further, solicitation and contract language must be monitored by the SFA to determine contractor compliance as required by 2 CFR 200.318(b), in order to ensure that contractors perform in accordance with the terms, conditions, and specifications of their contracts or purchase orders. Monitoring is also accomplished by reviewing products and delivery invoices or receipts to ensure the domestic food that was solicited and awarded is the food that is received. SFAs also need to conduct a periodic review of storage facilities, freezers, refrigerators, dry storage, and warehouses to ensure the products received are the ones solicited, and awarded, and comply with the Buy American provision.
Monitoring of the Buy American provision by State agencies. State agencies conducting procurement reviews in conjunction with, or as a separate review from, the administrative review process must ensure SFA compliance with the Buy American provision. During a procurement review, State agencies must:
- Determine if SFAs are purchasing domestic commodities as defined in 7 CFR 210.21(d);
- Check that solicitations and contracts contain the Buy American certification language recommended in Questions 6 and 7 below; and
- Review a sample of supplier invoices or receipts to determine whether the solicited-for domestic foods were provided by the awarded contractor. If the SFA is non-compliant with the Buy American provision, the State agency must issue a finding and require corrective action which may include:
- Requiring contract amendments to include language to supply domestic foods, or a new solicitation if the contract amendment is determined, by the contracting parties or State agency, to be a material change;
- Attending a procurement training to increase compliance with procurement standards, including the Buy American provision; and
- Fiscal action for repeat or egregious findings, on a case-by-case basis with approval by the appropriate Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) Regional Office.
During an on-site administrative review, State agencies must look at the labels on a variety of food products in SFA storage facilities and if the State agency identifies non-domestic foods, the State agency must request documentation justifying the limited exception(s) outlined above. Each SFA must have Buy American Justification Forms completed for every non-domestic food product the SFA has on hand. If such is not provided, the State agency must issue a finding and require corrective action, which may include:
- Requiring review of food deliveries for contractor compliance;
- Monitoring to ensure the correct domestic food components contracted for are delivered;
- Prior to accepting foods, ensuring that an alternative domestic food component, or an exception to purchase non-domestic foods, has been approved for delivery; and
- Fiscal action for repeat or egregious findings, on a case-by-case basis with approval by the appropriate FNS Regional Office.
Buy American provision requirements. Section 104(d) of the William F. Goodling Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-336) added a provision, Section 12(n) to the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) (42 USC 1760(n)), requiring school food authorities (SFAs) to purchase, to the maximum extent practicable, domestic commodities or products. This Buy American provision supports the mission of the Child Nutrition Programs, which is to serve children nutritious meals and support American agriculture.
The Buy American provision applies to SFAs located in the 48 contiguous United States and is one of the procurement standards these SFAs must comply with when purchasing commercial food products served in the school meals programs.
Section 12(n) of the NSLA defines “domestic commodity or product” as an agricultural commodity that is produced in the U.S. and a food product that is processed in the U.S. substantially using agricultural commodities produced in the U.S. Report language accompanying the legislation noted that “substantially means over 51% from American products.” Therefore, over 51% of the final processed product (by weight or volume) must consist of agricultural commodities that were grown domestically. Thus, for foods that are unprocessed, agricultural commodities must be domestic, and for foods that are processed, they must be processed domestically using domestic agricultural food components that are comprised of over 51% domestically grown items, by weight or volume as determined by the SFA.
For products procured by SFAs for use in the Child Nutrition Programs using nonprofit food service account funds, the product’s food component is considered the agricultural commodity. FNS defines food component as one of the food groups which comprises reimbursable meals. The food components are: meats/meat alternates, grains, vegetables, fruits, and fluid milk. Please refer to 7 CFR 210.2 for full definitions. Any product processed by a winning vendor must contain over 51% of the product’s food component, by weight or volume, from U.S. origin. This definition of domestic product serves both the needs of schools and American agriculture. Products from Guam, American Samoa, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Northern Mariana Islands are considered domestic products under this provision as these products are from the territories of the U.S.
Implementing the Buy American provision. SFAs are reminded that for all procurement transactions for food or beverages (agricultural products) when funds are used from the nonprofit food service account, whether directly by an SFA or on its behalf, procurement transactions must comply with the Buy American provision. Implementation of the Buy American provision should be done by: including Buy American in documented procurement procedures, and all procurement solicitations and contracts; including domestic requirements in bid specifications; contract monitoring; and verifying cost and availability of domestic and nondomestic foods using data in the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service’s (AMS) weekly market report at https://marketnews.usda.gov/mnp/fv-report-config-step1?type=termPrice.
The Buy American provision supports local and small businesses. Using food products from local sources supports local farmers and provides healthy choices for children in the school meal programs while supporting the local economy. Requiring compliance with the Buy American provision also supports SFAs working with local, or small, minority, and women-owned businesses as required by Federal regulations (see 2 CFR 200.321). FNS also encourages purchasing food products from local and regional sources when expanding farm to school efforts.
USDA Foods comply with Buy American requirements. FNS encourages SFAs to maximize their use of USDA Foods, which comply with Buy American requirements. USDA Foods are domestic, and purchasing from 100% domestic origin sources is a longstanding USDA policy based on Section 32 of the Agriculture Act of 1935 (P.L. 74-320 as amended; 7 U.S. Code 612c). However, processed end products that contain USDA Foods need to meet the 51% domestic requirement, by weight or volume.
Limited exceptions to the Buy American provision. There are limited exceptions to the Buy American provision which allow for the purchase of foods not meeting the “domestic” standard as described above (i.e., “non-domestic”) in circumstances when use of domestic foods is truly not practicable. These exceptions, as determined by the SFA, are:
- The product is not produced or manufactured in the U.S. in sufficient and reasonably available quantities of a satisfactory quality; or
- Competitive bids reveal the costs of a U.S. product are significantly higher than the non-domestic product.
It should be noted that FNS has not defined a dollar amount or percentage triggering an exception requiring consideration of alternatives. Before utilizing an exception, alternatives to purchasing non-domestic food products should be considered. For example, SFAs should ask:
- Are there other domestic sources for this product?
- Is there a domestic product that could be easily substituted, if the non-domestic product is less expensive (e.g. substitute domestic pears for non-domestic apples)?
- Am I soliciting bids for this product at the best time of year? If I contracted earlier or later in the season, would prices and/or availability change?
- Am I using third-party verification, such as through USDA AMS, to determine the cost and availability of domestic and nondomestic foods?
If an SFA is using one of the above exceptions, there is no requirement to request a waiver from the State agency in order to purchase a non-domestic agricultural product. SFAs must, however, keep documentation justifying their use of exception(s). A Buy American Justification Form must be completed and available for each non-domestic agricultural product. Question 5 in the Q&A (below) addresses solicitation and contract document questions regarding exceptions to the provision. Monitoring of contractors by the SFA and oversight by the State agency are critical functions in enforcing the Buy American provision, including review of exceptions, as further outlined below.
Attachment: Buy American Justification Form