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US ag groups urge flexibility amid food crisis threat

US ag groups urge flexibility amid food crisis threat

(Posted on 01/04/22)

The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) in the USA has urged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to provide flexibility for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres to help address global commodity supply challenges caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The NGFA consists of grain, feed, processing, exporting and other grain-related companies that operate more than 8,000 facilities handling U.S. grains and oilseeds.
“As Russia’s latest aggression against the sovereign nation of Ukraine enters its fifth week, there is growing concern over the implications this war will have on global food security,” noted the NGFA, American Bakers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, Agricultural Retailers Association, National Oilseed Processors Association, North American Millers’ Association, and North American Export Grain Association in a March 23 letter. 
“The United States needs to produce more grain and oilseeds to offset the loss of Ukraine’s grain and sunflowers,” they wrote. “Time is of the essence.”
Ukraine provides 12 percent of the world’s wheat, 15 percent of the world’s corn, 15 percent of the world’s barley and 50 percent of the world’s sunflower oil. 
“It remains unclear whether Ukrainian farmers will be able to safely plant crops this spring or harvest their soon-to-ripen winter wheat crops, or if carriers will be able to safely export available commodities out of the region,” the groups noted. “Tragically, this situation recently prompted United Nations Secretary General António Guterres to warn of a possible ‘hurricane of hunger and a meltdown of the global food system.’”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2017 National Resources Inventory, 26 percent of general CRP acres were “prime farmland,” which is defined as “land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops…” The groups urged USDA to provide flexibility to producers to plant crops on prime farmland enrolled in CRP without penalty, whether on an emergency basis or through an early-out of their current CRP contracts.
The groups also urged USDA to enroll only “environmentally sensitive” land in the latest general CRP signup, which closed on March 11, and preclude the addition of any additional prime farmland into CRP.
The groups encouraged USDA to instead use working lands programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program, on prime farmland to the maximum extent possible. 
“The U.S. is blessed with some of the best quality soils on the planet, coupled with the best farmers in the world,” the letter stated. “The U.S. 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.”                                                                                                                           
NAGFA’s membership includes grain elevators; feed and feed ingredient manufacturers; biofuels companies; grain and oilseed processors and millers; exporters; livestock and poultry integrators; and associated firms that provide goods and services to the nation’s grain, feed and processing industry. The NGFA also consists of 27 affiliated State and Regional Grain and Feed Associations, and is co-located and has a strategic alliance with North American Export Grain Association, and a strategic alliance with Pet Food Institute.

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