Senators call for opening fallow US land to crops amid Ukraine crisis — Analysis
GOP legislators urge Biden administration allow farmers to conserve acreage and help stop starvation all around the globe
Republican lawmakers are pressing President Joe Biden’s administration to allow farmers to plant crops on millions of fallow acres through a federal conservation program, saying larger US harvests would help stabilize food prices and prevent famine amid the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
At issue are the more than 4 million acres of US farmland that are currently idled under the US Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). Farmers are paid to let some of their land remain uncultivated in exchange for improving soil quality and providing habitat for wildlife. The 10-year- or 15-year contract allows them to do this.
Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming and Marco Rubio, both senators from Florida, wrote to Tom Vilsack this week arguing that CRP land should not be restricted because of the Ukraine crisis. Senators said that the crisis in Ukraine is threatening the food supplies of many nations across Africa, South Asia and the Middle East. They are also dependent upon imports from this war-torn area. Ukraine and Russia, for example, account for almost 30% of the world’s wheat exports. They also supply over 80% in sunflower oil.
“Allowing crop production on CRP lands is a critical step for stabilizing food prices that have skyrocketed in recent months, and to help American growers fulfill the unmet global demand for grains that threatens the lives of tens of millions of people, which may only worsen if not sufficiently addressed in the short term,”The senators stated this in their letter.
Lummis’ appeal to Rubio followed a previous request made by Senator John Boozman (R.Arkansas), the ranking member of Senate Agriculture Committee for CRP lands. Vilsack, however, seemed to reject the idea in a recent letter to the National Grain and Feed Association.
“Quickly converting CRP land to crop production is clearly unfeasible,”The agriculture secretary stated that the move would also have long-term implications for climate change and soil quality.
The NGFA and other agricultural trade groups last week called on the Biden administration to open up CRP lands to planting, saying it’s unclear whether Ukrainian farmers will be able to safely plant their spring crops or harvest their soon-to-ripen winter wheat. “The US is blessed with some of the best quality soils on the planet, coupled with the best farmers in the world,”Vilsack was also informed by these groups. “The US should do all it can to feed a growing, hungry population now threatened by a likely global production shortfall by reassessing vital productive acres being idled here at home.”
Biden, the US Vice President, and Justin Trudeau the Canadian Prime Minister, both acknowledged that there is a risk of severe food shortages in the future. “This is going to be a difficult time because of the war, because of the recovery from the [Covid-19] pandemic,”Trudeau spoke to reporters Thursday.
According to reports, the EU agreed to allow farmers to plant crops on land that is currently uncultivated and to provide 500 million euros of aid. Nearly 6% of the EU’s agricultural land is normally idled to boost biodiversity. To boost food supply, the bloc may also reduce biofuel blending.