Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will continue to tighten global food supply, senators say

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has global implications, and two Republicans who are members of the United States Senate Agriculture Committee believe that the conflict is going to worsen and has implications for the global food supply.

Roger Marshall, of Kansas, said the invasion, on its 42nd day on April 6, has meant unspeakable suffering in Ukraine and the impact may make world hunger the pandemic of 2023 and 2024. Marshall and Joni Ernst, of Iowa, along with the members of the Ukrainian Civil Society, provided an update on Russia’s invasion and the impact on global food security and energy markets during a video conference call with the media.

Marshall, who recently went to the Ukraine’s bordering country of Poland, spoke about global unrest and he fears a repeat of an Arab Spring that plagued the Middle East about 10 years ago.

“Americans are not immune,” he said from the consequences of civil unrest.

The current invasion has tied up the ports of the Black Sea, which is Ukraine’s gateway for “milk and honey,” Marshall said. Ukraine farmers should be planting corn, sunflower and soybeans, he said, instead their equipment is being turned into weapons as the world loses food production, which can only mean more hunger and potentially starvation, particularly for countries that depend on the region for their staple items.

U.S. farmers and ranchers are also paying a price with high fuel, fertilizer and other production related costs that impact crops, cattle and swine production. Inflation and higher interest rates have also added to the bottom line expenses for producers.

Ernst said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine first and foremost should be measured by the deaths of innocent Ukrainians followed by the economic impact across the world. She said 400 million people depend directly on agricultural production from Ukraine and Russia. Fourteen African countries and Egypt are dependent upon that region to feed their people.

Russia has effectively shut down the Black Sea ports, which means not only the shutdown of exports, but also stops the importation of seed, fuel and fertilizer for Ukrainian farmers to grow crops, she said.

“Russia is using food as a quiet weapon,” Ernst said.

Ernst believes Ukrainians can win. “That’s an absolute must.” For that to occur they must be properly equipped by the U.S. and NATO countries.

Ukrainian officials who were also on the call implored upon President Joe Biden and Congress to help them and to hold Russian President Vladimir Putin accountable for what they called a “culture of genocide.”

“There is a perfect storm brewing in the Black Sea due to Putin’s unprovoked war. Ukraine is the breadbasket of Europe and a major exporter of sunflower oil, corn, wheat and other staple foods. One third of all wheat exported in the world flows through the Black Sea. Every day this war continues takes us closer to the point-of-no-return where we will see food insecurity at a global level because it prevents Ukrainians from planting, harvesting, and shipping food. The commodity price explosion caused by this war will impact the pocketbook of every American already faced with staggering inflation,” Marshall said in a statement after the event.

“The strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people has inspired this nation and the world. We must get them the weapons they need and we must continue to stand side by side with them and all their farmers who work each day to feed and fuel those around the globe.”

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].