The FAO Food Price Index, a barometer of prices for food commodities, rocketed to a record high immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine and disrupted food supply chains. Now it is down for the third month in a row, with large global harvests at hand, but Ukraine is a new entrant on the list of nations needing food aid, said the UN agency.
While Republicans objected to the cost of public nutrition programs such as SNAP, the leader of the House Appropriations Committee said on Wednesday that “we will be doing something about extending the waivers of the school meals programs.” The waivers, a response to the pandemic that allows free meals for all public school students, are due to expire on June 30.
The Biden administration said it would put $500 million into farm supports, boosting U.S. wheat production by up to 18 percent and expanding production of food grains and edible oils in an effort to fill the gap created by warfare in Ukraine.“ This funding is going to help ease rising food prices at home as well as abroad caused by Russia’s war in Ukraine,” said President Biden on Thursday.
The United States stands ready to provide food aid overseas if it is needed in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a letter to grain merchandisers. At the same time, the letter closed the door to suggestions for the emergency planting of crops on land enrolled in the Conservation Reserve, saying it would be impractical.
Global food shortages are a real possibility as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, President Biden told reporters while meeting with allies in Brussels on Thursday. Western leaders, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, joined Biden in saying they would step up their hunger-relief programs and encourage their farmers to grow more food.
Sharply lower prices for vegetable oils, down nearly 10 percent in a month, contributed to the first decline in the Food Price Index since last May, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization on Thursday. The index fell by 2.5 percent in June, although it was still about one-third higher than a year ago.
As food insecurity soars among families with children and a slate of federal benefits is set to expire later this month, a critical anti-hunger tool has yet to be implemented, leaving at least 2.7 million kids without assistance. (No paywall)
The final coronavirus aid package of the year would direct 3 percent of its $900 billion in funding to food assistance and relief for agricultural producers, according to its Democratic and Republican sponsors. "It's a deal that must come together," said one of the sponsors, Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, on Sunday.
Pointing to the impact of the pandemic on the economy, a U.S. district judge vacated on Sunday a Trump administration regulation setting stricter time limits on SNAP benefits for able-bodied adults who do not work at least 20 hours a week. Chief Judge Beryl Howell of the district court for the District of Columbia said the USDA, which runs SNAP, failed to justify the regulation, which would end benefits for 700,000 people.
Last week, the USDA extended a series of flexibilities in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children for the duration of the Covid-19 public health emergency. The waivers for the program, commonly known as WIC, have allowed participants to apply for benefits remotely rather than in person, and expanded both pickup options and the scope of eligible products. (No paywall)
"Everything's on the table" as Congress sets to work on a new coronavirus relief bill, and most of it will end up in the wastebasket, said Senate Finance chairman Chuck Grassley. Farm groups are pressing for billions of dollars in aid to offset low commodity prices and anti-hunger activists say a temporary increase in SNAP benefits would reduce hunger and stimulate the economy.(No paywall)
As it announced contracts for up to $1.47 billion to carry the Farmers to Families Food Box initiative through July and August, the USDA also said the program could end on Sept. 1, or soon afterward, as funding for the food giveaway program runs out. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has highlighted the Food Box as a boon to hungry Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, while the White House opposed a temporary expansion of food-stamp benefits.(No paywall)
Two of the largest meat processors in the country, Tyson Foods and Cargill Meat Solutions, are among roughly 200 "approved suppliers" for a USDA initiative to buy surplus fresh produce, dairy products and pre-cooked chicken and pork for distribution to needy Americans. The USDA said it approved $1.2 billion in contracts for the Farmers to Families Food Box program but did not list individual awards.(No paywall)
Farmers and ranchers will need billions of dollars in coronavirus aid beyond the $16 billion in cash that USDA plans to disburse by June, 28 senators said in a letter to President Trump. At the same time, a band of university economists said USDA aid is weighted 4-to-1 toward producers and that the agency "should arguably show an equivalent amount of creativity to help the broader spectrum of struggling Americans with food needs."(No paywall)
The government will spend $300 million a month to buy fresh produce, dairy and meat products that will be packaged into a box for food banks and other charities to give to hungry Americans, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. Some $3 billion will be spent on purchases of surplus foods for donation in an initiative that resembles the "America's Harvest Box" idea promoted by Perdue for delivering a portion of SNAP benefits.(No paywall)
Besides billions of dollars in cash payments to farmers, coronavirus relief will include purchases of "as much" milk and meat as possible for hunger relief, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday. President Trump says at least $16 billion will be spent on aid to agriculture. (No paywall)
For the second time in 14 months, President Trump announced a multibillion-dollar government intervention to prop up the farm sector, a prominent casualty of the Sino-U.S. trade war. The first bailout, announced in April 2018, has sent around $8.3 billion in cash to growers so far; the new rescue will buy "agricultural products from our Great Farmers, in larger amounts than China ever did, and ship it to poor & starving countries in the form of humanitarian assistance," the president said on social media.
The Food for Peace program, created during the Cold War to alleviate hunger overseas, would see $1.7 billion in funding in the new fiscal year, a Senate Appropriations subcommittee decided on Tuesday, ignoring a White House proposal to mothball the program.