The Day – Biden sees bigger role for US farms due to war in Ukraine
WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden wants to shine a light on soaring food prices from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine when he visits a farm in Illinois to highlight how U.S. agricultural exports can ease pressures financial felt in the world.
The war in Ukraine has disrupted that country’s wheat supply on world markets, while driving up the cost of oil, natural gas and fertilizers. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said its food price index in April jumped nearly 30% from a year ago, although the index fell slightly on a monthly basis. Americans are also hurting as food prices are up 8.8% from a year ago, the most since May 1981.
Wednesday’s trip to Illinois is an opportunity for Biden to address two distinct challenges shaping his presidency. Firstly, his declining approval ratings have been hampered by high inflation and his visit will coincide with the release of May’s consumer price index, which economists expect will show a falling inflation rate for the first time since August.
But much more broadly, it is an opportunity to strengthen America’s distinct role in helping to alleviate the challenges caused by the war in Ukraine. The trip follows a similar pattern, as Biden’s recent visit to an Alabama weapons factory highlighted Javelin anti-tank missiles supplied by the United States to Ukraine.
“He’s going to talk about the support we need to continue to give to farmers to help them continue to produce more and more domestically,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday. “Just as we provide weapons, we will work to do what we can to help farmers provide more wheat and other food around the world.”
The Democratic president plans to announce three policy changes to help American farmers, according to the White House. These include doubling funding for national fertilizer production to $500 million, greater access to agricultural management tools for plant and soil needs, and efforts to increase the number of counties eligible for the “double crop” insurance so that farmers can reuse their land for planting in the same year.
Biden noted in remarks on inflation on Tuesday that Ukraine has 20 million metric tons of wheat and corn in storage that the United States and its allies are trying to help ship out of the country. This would help resolve some supply issues, although difficulties may persist.
Several House Democrats, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, met with Biden on Tuesday after touring Ukraine. They warned that the food shortage meant the consequences of the war unleashed by Russian President Vladimir Putin would stretch far beyond Ukraine’s borders to some of the world’s poorest nations.
“This is going to lead to a hunger crisis, much worse than expected,” Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern said after the White House meeting.
An analysis this month for the center-right American Enterprise Institute by Joseph Glauber and David Laborde noted that countries in the Middle East and North Africa are primarily likely to suffer from rising prices caused by grain shortages.
There are limits to the amount of wheat the United States can produce to make up for any shortages. The Department of Agriculture estimated in March that 47.4 million acres of wheat had been planted this year, an increase of only 1% from 2021. It would be the fifth lowest amount of wheat acres in records dating back to 1919.
Biden will travel with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to Illinois. After the president speaks at the farm, he will travel to Chicago to speak at a convention of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.