President Biden’s $500 million plan to boost agricultural production isn’t going down well with two key Senate Republicans on ag policy - John Hoeven, the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, and John Boozman, who’s ranking on the Senate Ag Committee. 

The White House supplemental request for the war in Ukraine would pay farmers to double-crop wheat and soybeans and raise marketing loan rates for several commodities, including wheat, rice, soybeans and other oilseeds. 

Boozman told Agri-Pulse Wednesday he would still rather see the Conservation Reserve Program open to cropping. “We really don't feel like that it (the president’s proposal) would make any difference,” Boozman said. “So, we're very much into trying to find some ways that would actually incentivize increased production.

Hoeven told members of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting he also isn’t sure Biden’s proposal is “a viable, workable approach.” 

Keep in mind: The National Association of Wheat Growers says the double cropping incentive would benefit only a small number of producers in areas where that practice is agronomically feasible. 

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told the broadcasters the administration is “trying really hard to come up with ideas that will generate more production.” 

By the way: The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that global food insecurity hit new highs in 2021, even as FAO analysts warn the war in Ukraine is likely to push many more people into hunger because of rising prices and shortages. 

An estimated 193 million people in 53 countries or territories experienced acute food insecurity in 2021 and were classified as in “crisis or worse.” That was an increase of nearly 40 million people over 2020.

Senate bill could extend waterway funding

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee has advanced a water projects reauthorization bill that could ensure that inland waterway funds go farther and benefit more projects.

The bill would raise the share of projects paid out of general revenue from 65% to 75% and reduce the amount that has to come out of the Inland Waterways Trust Fund from 35% to 25%. 

The bill also includes some provisions that would benefit western water projects. The bill would set up a Western Water Cooperative Committee to work with the Army Corps of Engineers to ensure that water projects are operated the way Congress intended. 

Maersk stops all shipping vessel operations in Russia

Maersk, a major ocean shipping company, has followed up on earlier promises and shut down all vessel operations in Russia along with service to Belarussian exporters. Meanwhile, the vessel-operating common carrier, or VOCC for short, says it is closing offices in the two countries that are allied in the war on Ukraine.

“We have done our utmost to withdraw from Russia in a responsible way, with our offices in Far East Russia … expected to close down during the summer of 2022,” Maersk said Wednesday. “The Saint Petersburg and Moscow office will run until the end of the year. Our Belarus office will also be shut down during the summer.”

Ukraine hasn’t been able to use its Black Sea ports to export grain since the invasion began in February because of Russian naval blockades. Maersk confirmed it is not servicing Ukraine because of the “current crisis.”

Ukraine: Russia has stolen 400,000 tons of grain

The Ukrainian agriculture ministry has accused Russian invaders of stealing grain in occupied territory before, but now the deputy minister is painting a more detailed picture of the alleged theft.

Taras Vysotskyi, the first deputy minister of agrarian policy and food of Ukraine, went on television this week to say the “occupiers” have taken 400,000 tons of grain from farmers in regions controlled by the Russian military. That’s almost a third of the 1.3 million tons in storage in occupied regions like Kherson.

“These are not some strategic reserves, but what is needed to ensure daily food security, i.e., food for Ukrainians living there,” Vysotskyi said in a statement published by the ministry.

Booker says reconciliation still possible for conservation

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., says there’s still a real chance the conservation measures intended for President Biden’s Build Back Better plan could be passed through reconciliation.

The Senate Ag Committee member told Agri-Pulse in a recent interview he has “a lot of hope” that the Democratic caucus is in agreement that conservation programs need to be expanded. 

Booker has proposed dramatic increases in farm bill conservation, and Build Back Better contained around $27 billion for conservation, including $8 billion allocated to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and a new $5 billion cover crop program. 

Take note: Senate Democrats are trying to find scraps of Build Back Better to salvage, but any measure would have to survive scrutiny from both moderate Senator Joe Manchin, D-W.V., and House progressives who will be needed to overcome the House’s razor-thin Democratic majority.

He said it. “The COVID 19 pandemic was a stark reminder of the need for urgent, sustained action.” - President Joe Biden, making the case that the pandemic was worsened by the number of people with diet-released diseases that made them more vulnerable to sever cases of the disease. Biden made the statement in announcing that the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health will be held in September

It will be the first such meeting since the 1969 conference that led to dramatic increases in nutrition programs. 

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