Senate Ag Republicans confronted USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack over soaring farm input costs, declining profits, and overregulation during an oversight hearing Thursday. Again and again, Senate Ag Republicans raised the top issue they’re hearing about from producers and consumers—inflation.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell; “One recent study from Texas A and M estimated that despite higher commodity prices, farm profits will drop by nearly 60 percent in 2022 due to these higher input costs. Since January of 2021, animal feed has increased by 43 percent, diesel fuel, 115 percent, natural gas 202 percent, fertilizer 220 percent.”
Secretary Vilsack insisted he’s doing everything he can to boost production and reduce fertilizer costs.
“We are working with farmers to make sure that they are fully aligned with the right application, the right time, the right location, the right amount. We have also provided a new risk management tool that encourages a split application of nitrogen to reduce the cost to farmers. We’re picking up the loss of productivity that may occur if they are unable to fertilize twice in a year. We also have allocated $500 million towards looking at a broad array of options in terms of how we might be able to expand fertilizer capacity in this country.”
Vilsack also talked about CRP; “We announced the fact that, in terms of the general signup, approximately a little over one million acres that were in the program are coming out of the program. So that million acres is going to be available. Secondly, we announced an effort to try to encourage those whose acres are coming out of the program to be able to access their fields more quickly.”
Without having to wait under the rules until October to plant. Vilsack also announced another $200 million to expand meat processing and tighter proposed Packers and Stockyards rules to protect poultry producers.
Meantime, Republicans like Roger Marshall of Kansas accused Vilsack of not advocating strongly enough to EPA on administration efforts to weaken agency authority over glyphosate and favor a California law.
Marshall; “You just testified to Senator Grassley that you weren’t consulted, but now you’re saying you were being proactive.” “Basically, I have talked to the EPA about crop protection activities and products and encourage the EPA to continue to follow the science and encourage them to listen to farmers and farmers’ concerns. And, frankly, they have.”
Vilsack says he’s also urging EPA to listen to farmers as the agency implements new Waters of the U.S. rules or whatever the Supreme Court decides on WOTUS later this year.