OMAHA (DTN) -- In a speech Wednesday before the United Nations General Assembly, President Joe Biden attacked Russia's aggression in Ukraine and committed to nearly $3 billion in "life-saving humanitarian" food aid to help with increasing global food insecurity.
Biden noted in his speech there are now as many as 193 million people facing "acute food insecurity," up 40 million people in just a year.
The president called out Russia for its war in Ukraine and Russian propaganda blaming other countries for grain shortages and high food prices.
"Russia in the meantime is pumping out lies, trying to pin the food crisis on the sanctions imposed by many in the world for the aggression against Ukraine," Biden said.
Biden emphasized that sanctions from the U.S. and other countries "explicitly allow Russia to export food and fertilizer."
The president also pointed to the deal reached earlier this summer when Russia agreed to allow Ukraine to export grain out of its Black Sea ports after blockading those ships months ago. "We need to make sure it's extended," Biden said of the export deal. "We believe strongly for the need to feed the world."
Concerns grew Wednesday that the export agreement could collapse as Russian President Vladimir Putin reacted to the war by looking to call up as many as 300,000 reservists. Putin also alluded to possibly using nuclear weapons in comments about using "all the means at our disposal to protect Russia." Biden responded by saying Putin was making "irresponsible nuclear threats."
Reacting to the saber rattling, December wheat moved up even though corn and soybean futures fell. December wheat in Chicago closed 10 cents higher at $9.03 a bushel. Wheat futures had closed Monday at $8.30 a bushel.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also pointed to war in Ukraine as exacerbating the global food crisis. The FAO on Wednesday highlighted 19 "hunger hotspots" globally caused by "rising conflict, weather extremes, and economic instability aggravated by the pandemic and the ripple effect of the crisis in Ukraine."
Biden also said the U.S. "is scaling innovative ways to get drought and heat-resistance seeds to farmers who need them" and working to "distribute fertilizer and improving fertilizer efficiency so the farmers can grow more while using less."
Turning to exports, Biden also called on countries not to block its ability to export food.
"We're calling on all countries to refrain from banning food exports or hoarding grain while so many people are suffering. Because in every country in the world, no matter what else divides us, if parents cannot feed their children -- nothing -- nothing else matters."
In a release to reporters, the White House pointed to the layers of problems compounding global food insecurity.
"The compounding impacts of the pandemic, the deepening climate crisis, rising energy and fertilizer costs, and protracted conflicts -- including Russia's invasion of Ukraine -- have disrupted global supply chains and dramatically increased global food prices. A multi-year drought in the Horn of Africa has created a dire humanitarian emergency, with parts of Somalia at risk of famine for the second time in just over a decade."
Most of the aid, about $2 billion, will come through the U.S. Agency for International Development, with the rest coming from USDA.
USDA will invest $178 million in seven international development projects on four continents to support U.S. government priorities, including promoting climate-smart agriculture, facilitating trade and addressing the root causes of migration in Central America, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Wednesday.
The funds are being awarded under the Food for Progress Program, through which USDA's Foreign Agricultural Service partners with non-governmental organizations and foreign governments on projects that help developing countries strengthen their agricultural systems and boost their trade capacity.
USDA also announced that Biden's announcement includes $220 million to be awarded through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, which is administered by FAS. USDA will invest in eight new school feeding projects that are expected to benefit more than a million children across 2,200 schools in food-insecure countries in Africa and East Asia, Vilsack added.
FAO report on global hunger hotspots: https://www.fao.org/…
White House fact sheet on food aid: https://www.whitehouse.gov/…
DTN Political Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom contributed to this report.
Chris Clayton can be reached at Chris.Clayton@dtn.com
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