Fighting on two fronts: President Biden says pandemic, Ukraine crisis cause of inflation, pledges help for America’s farmers
KANKAKEE, ILL – President Biden called American farmers, “the breadbasket of democracy,” during a farm visit to announce actions by the USDA to boost production of wheat and other food crops and curb input costs.
Along with USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, the President detailed three administrative actions during a visit to a farm in Kankakee, Ill., that he says will help lower domestic food prices by boosting production and increase agricultural exports, thereby increasing farmers’ revenue and supporting jobs in farm and rural communities.
“Particularly jarring to our food system,” said the President, “are Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, which has cut off a critical source of wheat, corn, barley, oilseeds, and cooking oil. It has also disrupted global supply chains for fertilizer, which farmers depend on to maximize yields — not to mention led to surging prices in many sectors.”
The Agriculture Department will remove restrictions in up to 681 counties on crop insurance coverage for double cropping, a practice that allows farmers to plant successive and different crops on the same land. A common double cropping combination is to plant wheat followed by soybeans in the same year, after the wheat is harvested.
The department also will double funding, from $250 million to $500 million, for an effort to spur more domestic production of fertilizer. Already rising before the war in Ukraine, fertilizer costs have surged since the conflict began. Russia is a major producer of phosphate fertilizer.
Cutting costs for farmers by increasing technical assistance for technology-driven precision agriculture, resulting in less fertilizer usage without reducing yields, is another part of Biden’s announcement. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has planning and cost sharing assistance programs available to help American farmers with nutrient management.
All this comes just a month after the President announced that his administration would allow E15 gasoline — gasoline that uses a 15 percent ethanol blend — to be sold this summer, increasing the fuel supply through greater use of low-cost and low-emissions ethanol.
“We have to invest in our farmers and reduce costs and reduce prices for consumers. We have the most productive most efficient farmers in the world,” the President observed.
Data released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics this week showed an inflation rate of 8.3 percent in April, driven in part by the rising food prices. The prices of chicken and milk have increased 15 percent over the last year, and beef and flour have gone up 14 percent, the report showed.
Biden said the Covid-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have contributed to supply chain disruptions, increasing food prices and shortages in the United States and abroad.