Presses USAID Administrator on recent dismissive comments
WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today pressed the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power on her recent remarks dismissing the harmful effects of fertilizer shortages on American agribusiness, and the Biden Administration’s failure to take action to lower record-high costs.
During a recent interview on ABC News, Power, talking about fertilizer shortages caused by the loss of production in Russia and Ukraine, said that it would hasten the transition to natural solutions like manure and compost that “would’ve been in the interest of farmers to have made eventually anyway,” and that you should “never let a crisis go to waste.” However, under questioning today from Hagerty, Power walked back her comments.
“Those comments are accurate […] and I would definitely rephrase my response to the question that was posed if I could do it again—but rest assured, the chemical fertilizer has been a critical part of the agricultural gains that our partners have made globally […] in no way did I mean to suggest that… we’re in route to moving away from… programming with our partners using fertilizer that has been so effective in increasing gains,” Power said.
Hagerty warned Power that ignoring the damaging effects of the fertilizer shortage in hopes of achieving green energy goals, in parallel to the Administration previously implying that high gas prices are good for forcing a transition to alternative fuel vehicles, would have damaging consequences. “Saying that high prices in fertilizer are good to force a transition that should happen anyway when you’re forcing us back into manure compost and that type of thing, that’s going to precipitate a catastrophe; that will precipitate disasters that will be felt on a global basis,” Hagerty said.
Power agreed with Hagerty that farmers and producers should have access to fertilizer as they had prior to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“I’m very concerned that we’re going to see food shortages come up here on a global basis. And I think we need to be very careful, A) as we speak about this, and then B) what we decide to do to support it and move it in the proper direction—and moving back in time and moving back in history is not the right direction,” Hagerty concluded.
In March, Hagerty sent a letter to President Joe Biden raising his concern regarding record increases in fertilizer prices having a significant effect on farm profitability and costs of food and consumer products and called on the Administration to take action to lower costs. Considering Russia’s role as a key producer of fertilizer and necessary inputs of fertilizer, its invasion of Ukraine has caused shortages and price increases of fertilizer. These disruptions, coupled with skyrocketing energy prices precipitated by President Biden’s war on the American oil and gas industry, have harmed American farmers and, in turn, American consumers.