Possible global food shortages have Biden administration seeking additional production | Ag News


Growing concerns over expected declining food production from war-torn Ukraine have led lawmakers to press the Biden administration to help United States farmers so they can make decisions about increasing production, as many experts believe a food and humanitarian crisis looms.

President Joe Biden recently went to Illinois to announce more flexibility for farmers so they can increase production.

The American Soybean Association and its farmer-leaders in a statement welcomed President Biden’s announcement that the White House plans to help American farmers boost crop production to counter reduced food exports from Europe and other market factors stemming from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

From a farm in Illinois, the president outlined the three components noted of the initiative, which include:

• Increasing the number of counties eligible for double cropping insurance, which will allow farmers to plant a second crop on the same land in the same year, helping boost production without relying on farmers to substitute crops or cultivate new land;

• Prioritizing technical assistance for technology-driven “precision agriculture” and other nutrient management tools that can result in less fertilizer usage without reducing yields; and

• Doubling funding for domestic fertilizer production to $500 million.

ASA President Brad Doyle said in a statement from the organization, “The president is improving access to double cropping insurance coverage and technical assistance for precision agriculture and nutrient management, and he is investing more into domestic fertilizer production. We applaud this announcement and look forward to soybean farmers realizing these benefits.”

“American corn growers continue to feed and fuel the world even as they face challenges stemming from the war in Ukraine and high input costs,” stated National Corn Growers Association CEO Jon Doggett, who attended the announcement. “We’re appreciative of the efforts that President Biden and USDA are making to help farmers navigate these challenges, and the recognition of the key role farmers play in in providing solutions.”

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-AR, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, released the following statement on May 11 in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new proposals for additional agricultural producer flexibilities:

“For months I’ve been sounding the alarm on the need for the Biden administration to devise a plan that empowers American farmers and ranchers to help address the global food crisis caused by Russia’s ruthless invasion of Ukraine. While the administration is taking a positive step in announcing some measures that will spur double cropping of select crops this fall and into 2023, there is more the secretary can and should do to address the immediate challenges including administrative flexibilities to CRP and cover crops, which have been successfully implemented in recent years. The reality is it will take years for the benefits of this proposal to be realized while a food crisis ensues.”

In April, Bozeman had pressed for additional information as farmers as producers are looking to harvest spring-planted crops.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Boozman stresses that the USDA’s international food assistance programs are heavily supported by donated food commodities grown in America. He calls on USDA to develop a plan for the coming food supply shortage leading up to the fall harvest of spring-planted crops.

“The McGovern-Dole Program has used U.S. agriculture commodities to establish school meal programs and help combat food insecurity among children in developing countries. Monetizing donated commodities like rice, soybeans, and wheat under the Food for Progress Program has helped improve the agriculture sectors and address hunger and malnutrition in these countries. While many of these development programs have aided in reducing global hunger, the emergency we face today outpaces the scope of that work,” Boozman wrote.

Boozman specifically requests “regular written updates on USDA’s efforts no less than every two weeks” on the department’s plans to:

• Ensure U.S. producers have access to necessary resources to meet the increased global demand;

• Work across federal agencies to prepare for the anticipated food shortages from decreased production in Ukraine, record-high production costs, and disrupted supply chains; and

• Engage other federal agencies to ensure a coordinated plan that ensures regulatory actions, such as those pursued by the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency pertaining to animal medicines and crop protection tools for example, will not result in a net decrease in food and commodity yields.

The USDA estimated an additional 40 million people could be pushed into poverty and food insecurity due to the invasion of Ukraine, exacerbating a historic level of global food insecurity, according to an official with Kansas Wheat. As a result, the USDA and the U.S. Agency for International Development announced the infusion of new funding for U.S. food aid programs last week. As it has for nearly 70 years, U.S. wheat will play a central role in helping feed those in need.

“Today’s food aid programs were sparked by a Kansas farmer, who suggested U.S. farmers could share their harvest with global neighbors,” said Kansas Wheat CEO Justin Gilpin. “Kansas wheat producers are proud to continue this tradition of championing food aid programs that provide high-quality wheat to those in need.”

The Biden administration announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Agency for International Development are taking the extraordinary step to draw down the full balance of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust as part of an effort to provide $670 million in food assistance to countries in need as a result of Putin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. The world is suffering from historic levels of global food insecurity, which is being exacerbated by the impact Russia’s war on Ukraine is having on global food supplies. Available estimates suggest an additional 40 million people could be pushed into poverty and food security as a result of Russia’s aggression.

USAID will use the BEHT’s $282 million to procure U.S. food commodities to bolster existing emergency food operations in six countries facing severe food insecurity: Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Yemen. USDA will provide $388 million in additional funding through the Commodity Credit Corporation to cover ocean freight transportation, inland transport, internal transport, shipping and handling, and other associated costs.

“Russia’s unprovoked war on Ukraine, a fellow major agricultural export country, is driving food and energy costs higher for people around the world,” Vilsack said. “America’s farmers, ranchers and producers are uniquely positioned through their productivity, and through the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, to help directly feed those around the world impacted by these challenges.

“In Ukraine, which provides 10% of the world’s wheat, farmers are struggling to plant and harvest their crops for fear of shelling and Russian landmines, and their path to exporting these vital commodities is severely restricted by Russia’s invasion, which caused the closure of Ukraine’s ports,” said USAID Administrator Samantha Power. “Putin’s decision to wage a senseless and brutal war against a peaceful neighbor is leading to a staggering global food crisis. Today’s drawdown of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust will help us respond to the unprecedented needs in countries around the world that are facing historic food insecurity.”

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