Biden aims to boost US crop production amid Ukraine war

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President Joe Biden on Wednesday is set to outline White House plans to help American farmers boost crop production to counter reduced food exports from Europe caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The president, set to speak from Kankakee, Illinois, will likely highlight how Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attack has driven up the global prices of wheat, corn, barley, oilseeds and cooking oil. Russia and Ukraine combined supply more than 25% of the world’s wheat exports and about 20% of barley exports.

In an attempt to quell food shortages, the Biden administration said it plans to increase the number of counties eligible for insurance for “double cropping,” when farmers plant a second crop on the same land in the same year.

The White House hopes those steps will help US farmers top a record-setting 2021 growing season, during which the value of American agricultural exports hit $177 billion.

The latest initiatives come a month after the United Nations warned that as many as 1.7 billion people are “highly exposed” to the domino effect of Russia’s war on global food, energy and finance systems. The global body said the already threatens to aggravate hunger in countries that are malnourished.

Even in countries where food is not as scarce, prices are taking huge chunks out of paychecks. In the US, the Labor Department said Wednesday morning that the prices Americans pay for groceries rose 1% in April and are up 10.8% over the last 12 months.

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen in April said global food prices are “skyrocketing.”

The White House said it also plans to double its investment in domestic fertilizer production, to $500 million from $250 million, to lower costs for growers.

The effort will attempt to ease one of the main culprits behind the spike in food prices: A global shortage of fertilizer.

Russia and Belarus, one of Moscow’s allies, provide about 40% of the world’s exports of potash. Farmers rely on the potassium-rich salt and component in the globe’s fertilizer industry to boost annual harvests.

In recent years, Russia also exported 11% of the world’s urea and 48% of the ammonium nitrate, two other key fertilizer components, according to estimates from Morgan Stanley.

“Fertilizer prices have more than doubled since last year, due in part to supply chain disruptions created and exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” the White House said in a fact sheet it published Wednesday morning.

“These actions will help grow new markets for American-grown food, supporting jobs in rural communities across America,” the administration added.

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