President Biden is placing a new emphasis on fighting inflation as his polls continue to fall. But relief should arrive by the end of the year in food prices, according to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Vilsak says the strategy he announced on Thursday to “transform” the American food system should start driving down prices by increasing competition in the processing sector.
“To the extent that you increase competition, increase capacity, increase supply, you are going to over time, I think, have an impact and affect prices,” Vilsack told reporters on Wednesday after a speech at the Georgetown University. “Will it be done in a month or two? No. Can this be done as we come to the end of 2022 and 23? I think so.”
But, but, but: Vilsack made it clear that he wanted to avoid the risk of subsidizing excess processing capacity, which would hurt existing businesses. Vilsack said the department will review the economic viability of the 250 meat and poultry processing projects already seeking USDA funding. “That will be part of the judgment we make in making decisions about the use of these resources,” he said.
What’s New in Vilsack’s Plan
Much of the plan Vilsack presented on Wednesday had already been announced, including funding for the meat processing expansion, but several major aspects were new.
New initiatives include $600 million for improving the food supply chain outside of meat and poultry processing; $400 million for regional business centres; $300 million for the transition to organic farming and $155 million to expand an initiative to provide more retail grocery options in inner cities and rural areas considered food deserts.
Republicans call plan ‘misguided’ and ‘wishful thinking’
Top Republicans on the House and Senate House Committees incorporated Vilsack’s plan in separate statements Wednesday afternoon.
“Increasing spending on organic initiatives and rooftop gardens while falsely blaming corporations and agribusinesses will not increase national food production,” Pennsylvania Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson said.
His Senate Agriculture Committee counterpart, John Boozman of Arkansas, said the plan represented “misplaced priorities and wishful thinking.” “Much of this ‘framework’ is just a repackaging of previously announced initiatives that will receive one-time funding provided for COVID relief,” Boozman said.
Keep in mind: Acting Senate President Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., defended the funding and policy priorities that make up a large part of Vilsack’s plans. She says the spending will “cut costs and build a food system that is fairer for consumers and better for the men and women who power our food economy.”
Wheat Farmers at the DOJ: Talk to the USDA
National Wheat Growers Association urges Biden administration to secure USDA contribution in a Supreme Court case that could affect the continued use of Roundup.
Vilsack told the Senate Agriculture Committee last week that he was not consulted on the Justice Department’s decision. to file a brief in a case involving the herbicide. The NAWG earlier signed a letter from more than 50 farm groups asking the administration to withdraw the solicitor general’s brief that recommends denying a Monsanto petition.
“The dangerous reversal defies” federal pesticide law, “diminishes farmers’ and other users’ access to the tools needed to produce food, fiber and fuel in a safe and sustainable manner, and poses threats to scientific regulation and international trade,” NAWG said.
Ukraine and Poland strive to streamline grain trade
Ukrainian and Polish government officials recently met with railway and other industry officials in the Polish port city of Gdańsk to resolve logistical and bureaucratic hurdles that have hampered Ukrainian grain exports, according to the Ukrainian Ministry of Agriculture.
Poland has agreed to install more customs and grain inspection staff at the busiest border crossing points and extend opening hours at the sites, according to Ukraine’s Agriculture Ministry. The agency says the efforts are expected to open new routes to three Polish ports, including Gdańsk.
GAO Says Better Collaboration Needed for Global Food Security Efforts
Federal agencies responsible for implementing the United States’ Global Food Security Strategy could better coordinate their efforts in countries around the world, according to the Government Accountability Office.
The USDA, USAID, State Department and Treasury Department are all involved in implementing the strategy.
The report says agencies don’t even necessarily make their spending information readily available to other agencies, which can lead to duplicate or overlapping efforts.
The WOTUS round table focuses on the South West
Another virtual roundtable examining the regulation of “US waters” is appointment for today, it focused on issues important to the South West. The event is organized by the Arizona Farm Bureau and includes the New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, the Colorado Ag Water Alliance and the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project.
The roundtable is the third of 10 organized by different groups. The next, scheduled for Monday, is organized by the Kansas Livestock Association.
Why they are important: The EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers say they will use roundtable input to draft a new WOTUS “sustainable” definition, which determines the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.
He said it : “It may be weak, but it’s a start and we have to work with it.” – Former Montana Democratic senator Max Baucus, who offered half-hearted support for the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific economic framework during a webinar hosted by Farmers for Free Trade.
The framework won’t reduce tariffs — something the U.S. agriculture sector needs — but it could reassert U.S. leadership in Asia, and that’s something the administration should be commended for, he said.
Questions, comments, advice? E-mail [email protected]