The war in Ukraine diverted the House Ag Committee’s attention for a few poignant moments on Wednesday from climate change to the urgent farm impacts of war. The hearing was billed as “A 2022 Review of the Farm Bill: The Role of USDA Programs in Addressing Climate Change.”
But the day had started with an emotionally rousing speech by Ukrainian President Zelensky to lawmakers by video link, and it carried over to the Ag hearing. Georgia’s Austin Scott; “Ukrainian farmers put 50 million metric tons of corn and wheat into the global food supply. Trade in the Black Sea is closed. Russia and Belarus, they’re the number two and the number three producer of potash in the world. If our crops inside the United States do not have access to fertilizer, then the yields inside the United States and other major food producers will go down.”
Scott asked Chairman David Scott to hold a hearing on the issue and the potential for widespread hunger and unrest if the void isn’t filled. David Scott; “I will be asking you and others of my colleagues to join me in sending a letter to Secretary Vilsack to bring some additional tools to help address this humanitarian crisis that is now taking place as a result of this terrible, awful Russian invasion.”
Scott vowed that the House Ag Committee will be “out front” in doing all it can to prevent a global hunger crisis. But American Farm Bureau’s Dave Salmonsen says there’s already a toll.
“An awful lot of tonnage that’s still sitting in ports of wheat and corn, sunflower oil that has yet to be shipped, so that’s certainly putting upward pressure on prices. And countries around the world are looking for alternative supplies. You can see that China’s buying a lot of soybeans for now and, I think, for next year, contracting from the U.S.”
But the bigger question is whether the U.S. and others can fill all the void, a question Salmonsen says can only be answered by how long the war in Ukraine persists, how high input costs rise, and the weather.