Fertilizer prices are continuing to soar and threatening to go higher, so the Senate Agriculture Committee has asked economists at Texas A&M University to update a study that detailed the sharp cost increases heading into this year.

The update will likely show fertilizers have risen 20% to 30% over the levels shown in the study released in January, A&M economist Joe Outlaw disclosed during a House Ag Committee hearing Wednesday.

Outlaw told Agri-Pulse he expects the update to be ready in a couple of weeks.

The original study said fertilizer costs, including import tariffs, rose an average of $688 per ton from late 2020 through October of 2021.

By the way: Economists at the American Farm Bureau Federation have posted a primer on the Ukraine war and the implications for global food and fertilizer supplies. Economist Veronica Nigh warns that many countries that import fertilizer from Russia are on its list of “unfriendly” nations, which could ultimately disrupt fertilizer trade and drive prices up even further.

House chair appealing to Vilsack on Ukraine ‘humanitarian crisis’

Some House Ag Republicans say the committee’s focus Wednesday on how the next farm bill should address climate change was ill-timed, given the situation in Ukraine and soaring fertilizer and fuel costs.

“How is this administration, how are we in Congress, addressing those high costs and inflationary pressures? What is the Biden administration doing?” asked Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill.

Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., called for a hearing “on the potential reduction in the global food supply and the impact of hunger and geopolitical stability around the world” because of the Russian invasion.

Ag Committee Chairman David Scott of Georgia said his colleagues’ comments were “well taken” and that he was preparing a letter to Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack “to bring some additional tools to help address this humanitarian crisis that is now taking place.”

He didn’t provide specifics, and his staff declined to elaborate on what the letter would address.

Stabenow not giving up on ag climate money

Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., insists she’s optimistic the agriculture portions of the moribund Build Back Better bill can still pass Congress. The bill contained $80 billion in ag and forestry provisions largely intended to address climate change.

Stabenow’s list of items that could still pass include tax credits for clean manufacturing and electric vehicles.

“I do think we can get some of these basic things home,” she said during an interview with Punchbowl News.

US poultry sector mulls logistics of aid for Ukrainians

The U.S. poultry sector wants to help Ukraine by delivering chicken to its beleaguered citizens. Members of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council are looking for ways to make that happen, the group’s president tells Agri-Pulse.

“There is support in our industry for putting together some sort of package to Ukraine, but we don’t know how it could get distributed,” James Sumner said. “Nothing is getting distributed within the country. So even if we could get it to the border, we’re afraid that we couldn’t get it distributed beyond the border.

Another complication, Sumner says, is that the poultry would likely have to go through Poland, a member of the European Union. The U.S. doesn’t export poultry to the EU because it bans the practice of using antimicrobial rinses to prevent salmonella contamination.

You should also know: MHP, the largest poultry processor in Ukraine, is struggling to keep operating. The company says one of its warehouses full of frozen chicken burned down during a recent Russian attack near Kyiv. No workers were killed, but a lot of food was lost, the company says.

“Every employee of the MHP will do their best to ensure that Ukrainians have food products!” the company says on its Facebook page.

Chile gives boost to US beer exporters

The government of Chile has for years defied demands from the U.S. to stop requiring rigorous testing of U.S. beer. Every product line of every brand of beer had to be tested every two years “to verify potability, genuineness, and to ensure the compliance with Chilean regulations,” according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

After five years of pressure from USDA and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, Chile has now agreed to scrap the need for all that beer testing, giving U.S. brews a more level playing field to compete against European beer, which is exempt from the testing.

The U.S. shipped $178 million worth of beer to Chile in 2021, making it the top agricultural and related export to Chile, FAS says.

Singer argues for less logging in hearing

Singer and activist Carole King is pushing lawmakers to repeal logging provisions in last year’s bipartisan infrastructure law. She told a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee Wednesday those funds should be put toward fire-proofing homes.

King, who is critical of the current permitting system used by the Forest Service, argues that the focus loggers place on large trees, rather than smaller trees and brush, limits the effectiveness of their fire prevention efforts.

Forest Service Chief Randy Moore told the panel there currently are insufficient markets for those smaller flammable materials.

She said it. “To say that this hearing is redundant is putting it nicely.” - Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., complaining at Thursday’s House Ag hearing that the panel has had six hearings to address climate issues.

Ag Committee member Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., defended the committee’s focus on the climate issue. “We ignore it at our peril, and it will definitely have an impact on our production capacity. It will have an impact on food and hunger. It will have an impact on supply chain jobs, and I could go on and on,” he told Agri-Pulse.
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