The Biden administration on Thursday pledged to help repair Ukraine’s agriculture sector from the damages of the Russian invasion even as the war rages on and farmers struggle to bring in crops.
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack met with Ukrainian Minister of Agrarian Policy and Food Mykola Solskyi at a United Nations meeting to sign a memorandum of understanding that commits U.S. assistance over the next three years. The partnership has been “driven by the need to address the economic disruptions in the United States and worldwide due to the Russian war on Ukraine,” USDA said in a news release.
“Ukraine needs the world’s support," Vilsack said after the signing. “This MOU will amplify the strategic partnership between our two nations and leverage our collective strength to enhance productivity, address supply chain issues, and identify food security challenges.”
Ukraine has reported damage from Russian shelling to farm equipment, food processing facilities, and grain and fuel storage , as well as the theft of grain supplies. But perhaps the biggest disruption to the Ukrainian ag sector has come from the Russian blockade of its ports that would normally be shipping out as much as 5 million tons of grain per month.
The loss of those corn, wheat and sunflower seed oil exports has decreased global supplies and raised prices, impacting poorer countries in Africa and the Middle East the most.
“Russia is using food as a weapon and a tool of war to threaten the livelihoods of those around the world, and that is something the agriculture community cannot and will not stand for,” Vilsack said.
President Joe Biden said the U.S. is helping build temporary grain storage for Ukrainian shippers who are trying to send their commodities via rail to Polish and Lithuanian ports. The grain has to be unloaded from Ukrainian trains at the border and then reloaded on European trains because Ukrainian rail gauges are different.
Looking for the best, most comprehensive and balanced news source in agriculture? Our Agri-Pulse editors don't miss a beat! Sign up for a free month-long subscription.
The length of the agreement signed Thursday suggests optimism that Ukraine will prevail as the U.S. continues to give weapons and ammunition to the country for its fight against the Russian military. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday another $1 billion in new military assistance for Ukraine, bringing the total spending under the Defense Department’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to about $5.6 billion since the invasion began on Feb. 24.
Through the MOU, USDA says, the countries also agreed “to the consistent exchange of information and expertise regarding crop production, emerging technologies, climate-smart practices, food security, and supply chain issues to boost productivity and enhance both agricultural sectors.” Furthermore, USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service will “provide Ukraine technical assistance for animal health, biosecurity, and sanitary and phytosanitary controls … as Ukraine rebuilds its agricultural sector.”
For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com