Tom Vilsack Says USDA won’t make “Snap Judgements” in response to Ukraine Invasion
As the developing situation in Ukraine causes questions about global grain supplies and energy prices. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack offers a sense of caution and says his department won’t be making any snap judgements.
“This is an ever-changing circumstance. It changes from minute-to-minute day to day. And I think it would behoove us not to make some snap judgments about what steps need to be taken, if any, by virtue of what’s happening in Ukraine.”
The region is a leading exporter of grain, accounting for 30% of global supply. Vilsack says USDA is looking for ways American producers can fill the gaps in food security.
“We know that its exports may be disrupted for a period of time we know where they have been historically exporting to the Middle East, in North Africa and to China. We know that some of those countries are very dependent on what they get from the Ukraine. So, we have to make sure that we focus on this we make sure that we’re in a position if those countries need help, and can’t get it from Ukraine that we’re in a position to help and provide assistance. So, we’re focusing on the programs that USDA that would provide that assistance.”
Senate Ag Committee ranking member John Boozman has called on USDA to delay the sign-up deadline for the conservation reserve program and to allow flexibility to allow farmers to put those acres back into production. But Vilsack says it’s too soon to make that call.
“Until such time as we have a better and clearer picture of what the longer term may look like, it’s a little bit difficult to make a judgment like that. The market place is going to also make that judgment for us. We absolutely know that CRP is an option. You know, as we deal with high input costs, we don’t want to limit the options to deal with that issue. We want farmers to have multiple ways to deal with increased input costs. So, they may want to plan something differently. They may want to get into CRP, because they pencil out and it turns out that that’s beneficial for their individual operation.”
He says they would be willing to consider flexibility if the time was right. But in the meantime, he thinks biofuels have a critical role to play in reducing the high fuel and energy costs facing farmers ahead of planting season.
“We’re very excited about the opportunity to use $100 million that we’ve allocated from USDA to try to expand the capacity of the infrastructure, the framework to be able to allow the biofuel industry to be able to meet additional demand and be able to lower the cost for consumers. We know that when you see higher blinds, there’s lower cost for consumers or also an environmental benefit.”