The Department of Agriculture plans to award grants for U.S. fertilizer production and give interested parties more time to submit applications for climate-smart demonstration projects.
Speaking Friday at Commodity Classic in New Orleans, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said the efforts are part of a broader USDA initiative to stabilize markets for American producers, work that has only increased in importance following the market volatility that followed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I think we have to recognize that we’re too reliant on outside sources of fertilizer and the ingredients for fertilizer, that we rely on countries that may or may not agree with us on a variety of issues,” he said. “We’ve had this incredible efficiency based on this global system that we’ve put together, but we forgot about resiliency. We focused so much on efficiency, that we forgot about the ability to make sure that if there is a disruption that we’re able to adjust.”
The program will provide $250 million in Commodity Credit Corp. funding for grants “to support independent, innovative and sustainable American fertilizer production to supply American farmers,” USDA said in a release.
USDA also plans to solicit information on “the way in which seed patents are currently being used and the relationship between farmers, wholesalers, retailers and distributors,” Vilsack said.
Vilsack also said the department will extend the deadlines for interested parties to apply for the $1 billion Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities program announced in January.
“The goal here is to create additional revenue opportunities that complement the traditional revenue opportunities,” he said, something that could create “two or three additional revenue streams.”
The initial round of funding, which will funnel money to projects seeking $5 million to $100 million, had its deadline moved from April 8 to May 6; the second round of funding, which is set to allocate smaller amounts of money — between $250,000 and $5 million — had its deadline moved from May 26 to June 10.
Vilsack spoke to the assembled audience — members of the National Corn Growers Association, American Soybean Association, National Association of Wheat Growers, National Sorghum Producers, and the Association of Equipment Manufacturers — following a Friday meeting of agriculture ministers from around the world where they learned more about the current situation for producers in Ukraine.
Ukrainian farmers desperately want to plant their spring crops — even as Russian bombs explode across the country — but they don’t have enough fuel. That was the message from Ukrainian Agriculture Minister Roman Leshchenko to G-7 ag leaders Friday morning in a virtual meeting, according to Vilsack.
“What they need is fuel that’s now being used in military applications,” Vilsack told reporters.
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