Biden lays out plans to help farmers with spike in food prices

Midwest

(NewsNation) — President Joe Biden touted plans to help American farmers ease a global spike in food prices during a visit to a family farm in Kankakee, Illinois.

“American farmers always find a way, they always feel something extra, a spark of patriotism,” he said Tuesday. “You feed America. You got us through a pandemic. And you’re literally the backbone of our country.”

Initiatives to help farmers are badly needed these days, as food costs surge because of inflation.

Farmers who spoke to NewsNation, including Scott Tanner, said they’re frustrated and feel like they’re getting blamed for the high prices of crops.

“There’s a lot of negative light on different things with farmers,” Tanner said. “We’re here to help people. It’s a tough job.”

The Tanner family is on their fifth generation of farmers. Scott Tanner’s dad, Mark, is one generation, and his two-year-old son would be the sixth.

“It’s just good to know that we can take care of the ground that we’ve got,” Mark Tanner said. “It chokes me up, I guess. But now I’ve got a grandson who wanted to be out here, too. So that means a lot to me.”

During his speech, Biden blamed rising prices on the war in Ukraine, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin has cut off critical sources of food since his troops invaded the country in February.

“Putin has warships, battleships preventing the access to Ukrainian ports,” he said. “The brutal war launched on Ukrainian soil has prevented Ukrainian farmers from planning next year’s crop and next year’s harvest. But we’re doing something about it.”

Plans laid out by Biden during his Kankakee trip include cutting costs for farmers by increasing assistance for precision agriculture and other nutrient management tools, which the White House said can result in less fertilizer usage. Biden also announced a plan to double his administration’s initial investment in domestic fertilizer production to $500 million.

However, Scott Tanner said just making an appearance in a rural area is not going to help Biden win farmers over.

“If you want to speak to farmers, you gotta get out there and get your hands dirty, and start lowering costs and shedding spotlight on what we do,” he said.

Scott and Mark Tanner said they don’t think the president’s incentives make the average farmer feel heard.

“They’re going to have to tax somebody to pay for the funding, so you can do all you can to throw money at something,” Mark Tanner said. “Somebody is going pay for it in the long run.”

Farmers say the American consumer will continue to feel the price-pinch until farming expenses start to go down.

“We can go without precision or some of that,” Scott Tanner added. But “there’s no way we can farm without fertilizer or fuel, so to not directly help lower that cost is going to hurt every farmer in the long run,” he said.

Inflation has sent gas and fertilizer costs through the roof. According to AAA, the price of a gallon of regular gas has reached a record $4.40.

Right now, inflation is sitting at 8.3%, according to the Labor Department. That’s a little below the 8.5% year-over-year surge in March, which had previously been the highest rate in 40 years.

In a statement Tuesday, Biden said that while he’s heartened to see annual inflation “moderated” in April, it is still “unacceptably high.”

The president has promised to make inflation his “top domestic priority,” calling it “the No. 1 problem facing families today.” Biden said his administration aims to ease price increases by shrinking the government’s budget deficit and fostering competition in industries.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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