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Biden visits an Illinois farm to announce aid for food growers at 'critical time'

President Biden on Wednesday announced new efforts that he says will help American farmers mitigate some of the effects of Russia’s war in Ukraine on the food supply.

As part of a trip to Illinois, the White House announced three new initiatives it says will support farmers, including $500 million for domestic fertilizer production.

The effort comes as overall inflation remained near a 40-year-high in April, largely driven by food prices. The food index has risen 9.4% over last year and jumped 0.9% just in the month of April.

Biden adviser Jared Bernstein highlighted the trip and the efforts to help farmers "increase their yields,” adding in a Yahoo Finance Live interview Wednesday that the White House is “acutely aware of the stressors on family budgets...and so we're doing all we can to help.”

Biden visited the town of Kankakee outside of Chicago on Wednesday. Accompanied by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the president toured an 800-acre family farm that specializes in corn, wheat, and soybeans. “The real reason I am here is to thank American farmers. You feed America and you got us through a pandemic,” Biden said. “America owes you, they owe you big.”

U.S. President Joe Biden visits a family farm in Kankakee, Illinois, U.S., May 11, 2022. REUTERS/Tom Brenner
President Joe Biden visits a family farm in Kankakee, Illinois on May 11 (REUTERS/Tom Brenner)

'It’s an extraordinary effort'

The three newly announced efforts include increased eligibility for double cropping insurance, increasing technological assistance, and the increasing funds for fertilizer production.

The double cropping allows farmers to take on the increased risks — along with more potential rewards — of planting a second crop on the same land in the same year. The technological assistance announced Wednesday could aid in precision agriculture efforts to use fewer inputs without reducing the crop size at the end of the season.

The farm Biden visited Wednesday is owned by Jeff and Gina O’Connor, who practice double-cropping with wheat and soybeans. When Jeff O'Connor introduced the president Wednesday, the farmer said the new efforts would help “allow the American farmer to step up at a very critical time.”

The ongoing war has especially impacted products like wheat, corn, barley, oilseeds, and cooking oil and driven up global food prices by nearly 13% in the less than three months since Putin’s forces invaded in February, the White House says.

During his stop, Biden also touted the increase in funds for fertilizer, which represents a doubling to $500 million of an initial investment in March towards domestic fertilizer production. The grant program will send out money beginning this summer.

Biden also highlighted his recent actions to allow E15 gasoline, which uses more corn-based ethanol, to be sold this summer.

“It’s an extraordinary effort, but it had to be done," Biden said.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

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