Behind Biden’s plan to bump up farm subsidies

“As part of a $33 billion funding request for Ukraine, the Biden administration last week proposed sending $500 million to American farmers with a goal of boosting production of wheat, soybeans, rice and other commodities, in order to make up for some of Ukraine’s food exports that have dried up since the Russian invasion.

But some agricultural economists say they’re unsure why the administration would move to boost subsidies for crops that are already fetching high prices, our Meredith Lee reports.

“I don’t think that this sort of intervention from the government makes any sense, other than to read it in a pure political sense, that this is something they feel like they need to do,” said Joe Glauber, former chief economist at USDA during Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s previous tenure during the Obama administration.

The funding request includes food aid programs that buy U.S. commodities and send them to countries in need, including many in Africa and the Middle East that relied on Ukraine and Russia for staples like wheat and sunflower oil and are now reeling from shortages and price spikes.

By the numbers: Under the Biden administration’s proposal, $100 million would go toward providing a $10-per-acre payment to farmers who plant a soybean crop after a winter wheat crop in 2023. Another $400 million would fund a two-year increase in loan rates for U.S. producers to encourage them to grow more select food commodities, including wheat, rice and oilseeds like soybeans, sunflowers and canola.

The Agriculture Department claims the proposal would help stabilize rising U.S. food prices and provide food for foreign countries in need, by helping American farmers grow 50 percent of the wheat normally exported by Ukraine, among other things. That plan, however, would probably also require the U.S. to step up funding for federal aid programs that buy and ship U.S. commodities abroad. Otherwise, wealthier countries like China would likely buy up the extra supply on the open market.

Biden’s proposal comes despite prior statements by key White House and USDA officials that high commodity prices alone would encourage U.S. farmers to increase their crop production and help meet global demand in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The president on Thursday described the plan as “good for rural America, good for the American consumer and good for the world.””

Why the U.S. Needs to Act Fast to Prevent Russia from Weaponizing Food Supply Chains

“it is actually the agricultural aspects of the pact with China about which the world should be most concerned.

The importance of Ukraine’s remarkably fertile soil for global grain supply has gained some attention, amid concerns the conflict will lead to sharp price increases. But the reality is Russia’s control of Ukrainian grain shipments will likely have far greater consequences.

After just one day of the invasion, Russia effectively controlled nearly a third of the world’s wheat exports, three quarters of the world’s sunflower oil exports, and substantial amounts of barley, soy and other grain supply chains. Furthermore, Ukraine alone accounts for 16 percent of the world’s corn exports and has been one of the fastest growing corn producers — a dynamic particularly critical to meeting China’s rapidly growing demand for corn. Importantly, while hydrocarbon production can be immediately surged in different places to meet shifts in requirements, grain production cannot be surged in the same way, and even a major expansion cannot make up for the sheer volume of agricultural output that Russia now controls either directly or indirectly.

Most of the focus has rightly been on the invasion’s impact on people in Ukraine’s most populous cities — but in the background, Russia is completing a hostile takeover of the country’s grain-rich regions and their associated transportation infrastructure. Critically, however, Russia does not even need to fully control Ukraine’s agricultural lands to weaponize the food supply chains they anchor.

As the following map shows, there are only two points of maritime access that Russia needs to dominate in order to be in control of Ukrainian grain shipments: the Kerch Strait that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Azov, and the 17 ports in and around Odessa.”

What the Russian invasion of Ukraine could mean for global hunger

“Dozens of countries across the Middle East, South Asia, and North Africa that already suffer from food insecurity rely on Russia’s and Ukraine’s bountiful supplies of wheat, corn, and vegetable oil, and experts say the conflict could send food prices rising and

Why a Debt Relief Program for Farmers Matters for Racial Equity in America

“In March, when Congress passed its $1.9 trillion Covid-19 stimulus package, the legislation included a $4 billion loan forgiveness program targeted at Black and other minority farmers. Based on strong evidence that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had perennially discriminated against certain groups, placing them at much higher risk of foreclosure than white farmers, the program offered a one-time emergency payout to alleviate debt for what it called “socially disadvantaged” farmers.

The policy represented a worthy and long-overdue attempt to redress historic and ongoing discrimination by USDA. But now the program is under legal siege.

Over the past few months, white farmers and ranchers have filed about a dozen lawsuits against USDA, alleging that they were victims of racial discrimination because, unlike several minority groups, white people did not automatically qualify for the emergency debt relief. While the lawsuits have been filed in multiple states, a class action has been certified in a case in Texas, where five farmers sued with backing from Stephen Miller, President Donald Trump’s former adviser. To the chagrin of Black and other minority farmers long awaiting relief, several federal courts have issued temporary injunctions blocking payments while these cases are decided.

Now, the Biden administration must decide whether to soldier on in court to defend the program or seek legislative fixes to inoculate it from legal challenges.”

“In the near term, the results of the white farmers’ lawsuits could have a significant impact on farmers of color across the country. In particular, without relief payments that USDA was supposed to begin distributing this summer, some Black-owned farms inevitably will collapse”

The Left’s New Constitution

“Consider the Emergency Relief for Farmers of Color Act, a $5 billion monstrosity that Georgia Senator Raphael Warnock snuck into the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The bill aims to provide payments to “Black farmers, Indigenous farmers, and farmers of color.” It includes $1 billion to address “systemic racism” at the Department of Agriculture.

The bill never says explicitly that blacks, Native Americans, or farmers who are immigrants from Latin America or their descendants should receive benefits; instead, it uses the term “socially disadvantaged famers.” For example, it instructs the secretary of agriculture to “forgive the obligation of each socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher who is a borrower of a farm loan made by the Secretary to repay the principal and interest outstanding as of the date of enactment of this Act on the farm loan.”

Warnock’s bill explains that “the term ‘socially disadvantaged farmer or rancher’ has the meaning given the term in 19 section 2501(a) of the Food, Agriculture, Conservation, and Trade Act of 1990.” As that law explains, “The term ‘socially disadvantaged group’ means a group whose members have been subjected to racial or ethnic prejudice because of their identity as members of a group without regard to their individual qualities.” Department of Agriculture regulations also “define socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers as belonging to the following groups: American Indians or Alaskan Natives, Asians, Blacks or African Americans, Native Hawaiians or other Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and women.”

In other words, membership in any of these racial, ethnic, or gender categories automatically entitles a farmer to benefits, “without regard to individual qualities.” As University of Maryland professor George La Noue has written, “social disadvantage is, as a practical matter, established at birth, and cannot be challenged by evidence of a successful life.” These are the makings of a rigid caste system in America.”

“These and other bills in the works create entitlements based on race or ethnicity, not need. If the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan Markle, were to turn part of her California estate into farmland, she, too, would get federal money, as could former President Barack Obama, NBA legend Michael Jordan, and Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. It is that absurd.”

“All of this is likely unconstitutional, violating the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause, as well Titles VI and VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.”

“Will the courts strike down these laws? Or will they use them to build on the illegitimate new “constitution” of racial preferences? We will see.”