A European War Grips Washington and Places a Further Strain on U.S. Farmers
By Brooke S. Appleton
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has gripped Washington for weeks, easily becoming the city’s marquee issue as we head into spring.
Typically, this level of attention is reserved for domestic issues, such as hearings for Supreme Court nominees. Yet, the nomination of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson hasn’t attracted anywhere near the attention dedicated to Ukraine. The laser focus on this issue undoubtedly stems from the fact that this is one of the biggest threats to democracy and European stability since the end of the Cold War.
The images of the destruction and mass casualties coming out of Ukraine are heartbreaking. For those of us in the agricultural community, the annual challenges of spring planting take on a different meaning when we consider farmers in Ukraine trying to plant crops amid war and a lack of fuel and other inputs.
Leaders around the world are working to help Ukraine while also considering how the war will impact their countries. The U.S. is no exception. Corn grower leaders have been working to ensure that farmers and American consumers are able to weather the fallout from the war.
Farmers in the U.S. had already been struggling for months to secure and pay for supplies, such as fertilizers, and now the war is worsening the situation by cutting off key import markets from Eastern Europe.
That’s why NCGA has increased pressure on the U.S. International Trade Commission to dismiss tariffs on fertilizers from other parts of the world. In addition, we have worked closely with members of Congress on this issue and are appreciative that legislation has been introduced to remedy the problem.
We have supported the Emergency Relief from Duties Act S3812/HR7010, which is sponsored by Sen. Roger Marshall and Rep. Tracey Mann of Kansas. The bill would create waivers during emergencies, such as foreign wars, for duties levied on fertilizers by the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Additionally, 86 U.S. representatives and senators sent a letter to the U.S. ITC calling for an end to tariffs on fertilizers from Morocco and Trinidad & Tobago.
As we work to address the high price of farm supplies, we’re also reminding Congress that corn growers’ increased productivity and efficiency have resulted in higher yields, using fewer resources to meet food and fuel needs to help address rising costs.
As Russia’s harmful actions in Ukraine continue and sanctions are imposed, high oil prices have already risen, creating higher consumer costs and threatening U.S. energy and economic security.
Higher blends of American-made ethanol in the fuel supply can help alleviate this issue, with ethanol priced an average of 78 cents less per gallon than unblended gasoline at wholesale during March. Blending additional ethanol in the fuel supply will enhance U.S. energy security while reducing emissions and supporting rural economies.
Unfortunately, drivers could soon lose access to higher ethanol blends during the summer months due to a 2021 court decision. That’s why we’re calling on the Biden administration to use its emergency authority to allow for the continued sale of E15, often marketed as Unleaded 88, a higher ethanol blend that costs less and reduces emissions.
We need your voice along with ours to make this happen. We ask that you write your members of Congress and tell them that you want to maintain access to year-round E15. Your members of Congress need to hear how ethanol is the solution we need right now.
As discussions continue about the role ethanol can play in addressing some of the nation’s pressing issues, we’re asking Members of Congress to support the Next Generation Fuels Act. This bill would permanently allow full-market access for E15 and advance low-carbon, high-octane fuels using higher ethanol blends, reducing our dependence on oil in the long run, while protecting public health and improving vehicle efficiency.
The situation in Ukraine is dire, and its effects will be felt far and wide. Our political leaders may not be able to mitigate every problem that arises from the war. Still farmers stand ready to help lower costs at the pump while continuing to meet demands for food, feed and exports as a result of our increased productivity and sustainability.
As we continue to advocate for farmers and lower prices at the pump, we’re thinking of the Ukrainian people, including the many Ukrainian farmers, who are fighting valiantly for democracy and self-determination. We are inspired by their perseverance and keep them in our thoughts and prayers.
Appleton is vice president of public policy and the National Corn Growers Association.