The plight of farmers facing record input costs and a war and pandemic-battered global economy was front and center on Capitol Hill this week.
This year’s bad enough with record fuel and fertilizer costs, but USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack was asked at a Senate hearing about next year. Vilsack; “One of the things that we’re looking at is, whether or not there’s a possibility of taking a look at our storage programs, because there may very well be the capacity to purchase and store, which farmer could potentially utilize to get them through a potentially tough 2023 crop year.”
President Biden just announced a doubling of funding for domestic fertilizer production, he’s boosting by more than half, the number of counties eligible for double-cropping insurance coverage, and continued help with nutrient management.
Vilsack; “There’s sensor technology that’s being developed at Iowa State University that suggests that 30-percent of the corn acres in America today, in the Midwest, do not require fertilizer. So, if we can accelerate the capacity of farmers to have that kind of precise information about their farms, we may be able to get them through a process, maybe not in 2023 but in the future, where they’re not as reliant as they have been, on those inputs.”
For now, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst says input costs are a huge problem. Ernst; “It’s absolutely ridiculous, they call us every day on it—they let us know. My own family is feeling those hurts. So, it’s something that, through the US Trade Rep we need to find other avenues of making sure that we have the fertilizer necessary…you know what, we should also start developing our own plants, here in the United States, to get the permitting process done.”
And then there’s the war in Ukraine. Missouri Senator Roy Blunt; “That needs to be an important and a specific part of the non-military aid package, so we can prevent the kind of chaos that’s going to occur if we don’t begin to help Ukraine get its food out of the country, get its food planted this year, and understand that there are going to be consequences, no matter what happens, from ports that don’t work, a country that provides so much of the food in the world.”
Lawmakers were expected to complete action this week on a $40 billion Ukraine aid package, including nearly 14 billion in humanitarian help and 5 billion for global food security.