Agriculture Secretary: 61,670 Farm Families in America Today...Are on the Brink'

Susan Jones | May 11, 2022 | 10:13am EDT
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 A small farm in Shelburne, Vermont. (Photo by Getty Images)
A small farm in Shelburne, Vermont. (Photo by Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - President Biden plans to visit a family farm in Kankakee, Illinois today, along with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak, to discuss the global rise in food prices, as the war in "breadbasket" Ukraine is contributing to shortages.

Here at home, family farmers are suffering because of inflation -- rising fuel prices, fertilizer prices, equipment and other farming necessities.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsak told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday that the family farm is "something that I think we all ought to be concerned about."

"There are 61,670 farm families in America today that are on the brink. 61,670 farm families that are either delinquent in their loans to USDA or bankrupt or are pending foreclosure. This is a serious issue that -- and I'm -- I'm pretty confident that every single member of this committee probably has a number of those 61,000 farmers living in their states.

"It's important and necessary for us to put a spotlight on the challenges. Now these are people who have borrowed from USDA or who have had a guaranteed loan from USDA, which means that they haven't been able on their own to go to a commercial bank and be able to secure financing. So these are folks who need help. They need assistance.

"I represented farmers during the 1980s as a small-town lawyer. I can tell you the pain. I can tell you the stress. I can tell you the -- the -- the -- the decisions that folks make under these circumstances, I can tell you very tragic decisions that they make under these circumstances.

"So I would hope that as we talk about the future of agriculture in this country, that we don't lose sight of those 61,670 farm families. They deserve our attention. They deserve some creative thought about how we may be able to assist them during this pandemic-stricken time. And I sincerely hope that we can work collaboratively together in a bipartisan way to make sure that they have a hopeful future as opposed to one that is currently stress filled today."

Biden's plan to help farmers

During his visit to the Illinois farm today, Biden will announce "new actions to give farmers the tools and resources they need to boost production, lower food prices and feed the world," the White House said in a fact sheet.

The fact sheet says the Biden-Harris Administration will:

1. "Increase the number of counties eligible for double cropping insurance.

"Double cropping allows farmers to plant a second crop on the same land in the same year, helping boost production without relying on farmers to substitute crops or cultivate new land. But it is not free from risk and some farmers who practice double cropping cannot obtain crop insurance. 

"The Biden-Harris Administration is seeking to expand insurance for double cropping to as many as 681 additional counties, bringing the total number of counties where this practice qualifies for crop insurance to as many as 1,935, so more American farmers have the financial security they need to start or expand double cropping."

2. "Cut costs for farmers by increasing technical assistance for technology-driven 'precision agriculture' and other nutrient management tools.

"Precision agriculture is a farm management system that allows farmers to use technology to target application of inputs to soil and plant needs, resulting in less fertilizer usage without reducing yields, saving farmers money over time and extending the usefulness of critical products in short supply worldwide.

"The U.S. Department of Agriculture has planning and cost sharing assistance programs available to help American farmers with nutrient management. The Biden-Harris Administration is working to boost outreach to farmers, streamline the application process, and prioritize application approvals to expand access to these critical programs."

3. "Double funding for domestic fertilizer production.

"Fertilizer prices have more than doubled since last year, due in part to supply chain disruptions created and exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including rising energy costs.

"Today, President Biden is announcing that he is doubling his initial $250 million investment in domestic fertilizer production to $500 million to lower costs and boost availability for farmers, so they can obtain the inputs they need at prices they can afford to maximize yields."

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