President Joe Biden visited an Illinois farm this week where he announced an additional $250 million to boost U.S. fertilizer production, doubling an initial $250 million investment the Secretary of Ag Tom Vilsack announced in March. 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, including rising energy costs.
“Literally on the plane out here, on Air Force One, I turned to Tom and I said, ‘Tom, double that. Make it $500 million. It’s so desperately needed. We can’t take chances.’”
Biden also noted that Vilsack was flying directly to the G7 Summit in Germany, where discussions will take place on increasing fertilizer supplies globally as well as how to work together to prevent export restrictions on food and agricultural inputs to bring more global production to market. This, he said, “will stabilize prices and bring more certainty to our farmers and keep people from dying of hunger.”
Biden touched on the war in Ukraine, relaying that Ukraine has 20 million tons of grain in their silos right now. “And guess what? If those tons don't get to market, an awful lot of people in Africa are going to starve to death because they are the sole of a number of African countries.”
Also at the event, Biden announced that USDA will extend double crop insurance coverage to nearly 700 additional counties, bringing the total number of counties where this practice qualifies for crop insurance to as many as 1,935.
U.S. farmers currently double crop around 12-15 million acres but USDA aims to double that number, according to Vilsack.
“The soybean association, working with us and other farm groups, have sought to double the number of double crop acres to 30 million by 2030. I hope we can accelerate that with this effort today,” he said.
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President Zippy Duvall said AFBF appreciates that President Biden took time to visit a farm.
“We agree with the President’s description of the American farm as the ‘breadbasket of Democracy’,” he said. "America’s farmers take seriously their responsibility to stock America’s pantries and help feed the rest of the hungry world. This effort to create greater opportunities and reduce barriers is welcomed, recognizing that this alone will not solve the multiple challenges we face.”
Removing the disincentives for double cropping has the potential to increase near term production in areas suitable for the practice and for farmers who have the financial capacity to do so, Duvall explained. “Similarly, the proposal to increase domestic fertilizer production is an acknowledgement by the administration of the extraordinarily high cost of supplies for farmers and ranchers, but it could take years to realize the benefits.”
Still, Duvall said there is “no magic bullet” to reduce food costs. “It will require addressing all the factors contributing to higher costs, including record high fuel and fertilizer prices that are bearing down on farmers. We will continue working with the administration, Congress and the private sector to get the supply chain moving again and find solutions that will enable farmers to keep store shelves filled with groceries that America’s families can afford.”
The American Soybean Association said Biden's announcements are ones that America’s soybean farmers can get behind.
“The president is improving access to double cropping insurance coverage and technical assistance for precision agriculture and nutrient management, and he is investing more into domestic fertilizer production. We applaud this announcement and look forward to soybean farmers realizing these benefits," said Brad Doyle, soybean and wheat farmer from Weiner, Arkansas, and American Soybean Association (ASA) President. said,