March 8, 2022
Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman, R-Ark., called on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to delay the Conservation Reserve Program sign-up deadline and provide flexibility for farmers to purchase crop insurance to help counter the unprecedented disruption in global crop markets brought on by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
In a letter to Vilsack, Boozman stresses flexibility should be a “top priority” so that “millions of acres of cropland and pasture that would have otherwise remained idle” can be farmed to “address both inflation and food security concerns.” Allowing farmers and ranchers additional time to weigh the complex challenges they already face, now made more difficult by added global food security concerns caused by Russia’s ruthless invasion of the sovereign Ukraine, ensures productive agricultural land isn’t being prematurely committed to long-term idling, making it unusable for food production at a time when our world is facing the highest food prices ever recorded.
Russia’s invasion into Ukraine has significantly disrupted U.S. agricultural markets. Cash prices for wheat have increased by more than $2.60 per bushel, corn prices have increased by more than $0.90 per bushel, and soybean prices have increased by nearly $0.60 per bushel. The significant increase in prices is related to supply concerns resulting from the ongoing closure of ports that are key to the export of agricultural commodities from Ukraine, and the likely disruption in spring planting of crops such as wheat, corn, sunflower and barley due to the conflict.
Boozman requested Vilsack delay the sign-up deadline for CRP until U.S. farmers have a better understanding of potential supply disruptions associated with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Additionally, with regard to any acres electing not to re-enroll in CRP, or any acres that would have otherwise been enrolled in CRP, the administration should ensure maximum flexibility for farmers to purchase insurance for these spring-planted crops, he adds.
The General CRP signup will run from Jan. 31 to March 11, and the Grassland CRP signup will run from April 4 to May 13.
Currently, there are 22 million acres enrolled in CRP, and for the 2022 fiscal year, a statutory cap of 25.5 million acres is in place. As a result, there is the potential to provide farmers with access to millions of acres of cropland and pasture that would have otherwise remained idle in order to address both inflation and food security concerns.
“This should be a top priority,” Boozman writes. Notably, the European Union is considering a similar approach of allowing farmers to use fallow land to grow crops, counter supply disruptions, enhance food security, and reduce inflationary pressures following the invasion of Ukraine.
SPECIAL REPORT: Russia-Ukraine conflict impact on U.S. agriculture
“A delay of the CRP sign-up deadline and an increase in the flexibility for a farmer to purchase crop insurance will allow U.S. farmers to evaluate whether it is better to raise and insure a crop or enroll in CRP,” Boozman explains. “Further, should conditions in Ukraine continue to deteriorate, consideration should be given to continued opportunities to graze livestock on CRP ground without penalty, and a one-time waiver to plant a spring crop on non-environmentally sensitive CRP cropland in order to offset anticipated production losses in Ukraine.”
Boozman concludes, “As I am sure you understand, U.S. farmers are the most efficient in sustainably raising crops and caring for livestock, and they do so in order to feed, clothe and fuel the world. With economic pressures being felt by all of us, and unprecedented aggression causing shock waves across the globe, now is the time for the U.S. to rise to the occasion and ensure food security at home and around the world by facilitating the full utility of productive cropland and pasture across the U.S.”
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