During a visit to a family farm in Illinois on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden blamed Russia’s conflict on Ukraine for the recent jump in global food prices and promised to back the country’s farmers as they try to fill the supply gap.
Biden claimed that American farmers helped carry the country through the COVID-19 outbreak and the current Ukraine situation. “You are the backbone of freedom,” he remarked after a tour of Jeff and Gina O’Connor’s 800-acre family farm in Kankakee.
The visit comes as the White House is struggling to rein in inflation on many fronts, from gasoline to food. U.S. gas prices hit record highs on Tuesday, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February dramatically worsened the outlook for food prices.
Biden declared this week that combatting inflation is the administration’s No. 1 priority, echoing repeated national polls that show Americans see it as their greatest concern.
New data on Wednesday showed U.S. consumer prices rose at a slower, but still significantly elevated, pace. The Labor Department said prices across the economy rose 8.3% over the 12 months through April. Food prices alone gained 9.4% over that period.
The U.N. food agency recently said food prices hit an all-time record in February and again in March, building on previous COVID-driven price spikes. Russia and Ukraine account for nearly a third of global wheat and barley production, and two-thirds of the world’s exports of sunflower oil used for cooking.
The White House announced actions on Wednesday aimed at helping U.S. farmers boost food production and lower food prices, including doubling funding for domestic fertilizer production and increasing technical help for nutrient management tools. The administration will also increase the number of counties eligible for double cropping insurance for planting a second crop on the same land in the same year, the White House said.
While in Illinois, Biden will also speak at a convention hosted by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. The event was originally scheduled for last August and delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden is expected to speak about his support for unions, infrastructure investments and the energy industry.