The Stakes Have Never Been Higher: Soaring Inflation Puts U.S. Food Security at Risk
Recent headlines might give the impression that inflation is under control, but inflation and other threats to agriculture are jeopardizing our farms and our food security. Farmers need strong federal agricultural policies. The stakes have never been higher.
Summer is beautiful on the farm. Our crops are planted and we normally take advantage of this season to enjoy the hard work that comes with growing the food that feeds America. This summer, however, we can’t sleep at night.
We both grow sugar crops – sugar beets in North Dakota and sugar cane in Texas – among other commodities. We’re certainly no stranger to the challenges that come with trying to navigate Mother Nature or cyclical crop markets. But this year, disasters continue to pile up.
It started with planting. In North Dakota, we were a month late in planting seeds, due to an unusually cold and wet spring. The planted crop looks promising, but the loss of crop protection tools has made growing sugar beet more difficult and has increased the cost of pest control, as we have to use less effective products more often. We also had to hire additional labor to even be close to planting the planned number of acres, which meant additional costs.
Texas, on the other hand, is facing such bad drought conditions that some of our neighboring farmers have completely given up trying to plant a crop this year. On our farm, we had to buy extra water to irrigate our crops, which added up to $700,000 to our farm expenses this year.
Now our fuel bills for tractors and trucks, as well as the fertilizers we need for our crops, are skyrocketing. Some of our costs have increased by more than 100%. In North Dakota, our fuel costs are expected to increase by $280,000 from 2021 and fertilizer costs by more than $500,000 from 2021.
In Texas, our fertilizer costs have gone from $180 per ton in 2021 to over $700 per ton this year. We make sacrifices everywhere just to pay the bills.
We are both members of producer-owned sugar cooperatives. So when we harvest our crops this fall, that sugar cane or that sugar beet will go to our respective cooperatives, where the sugar will be extracted. Higher transport and production costs in our cooperatives will reduce the prices we receive for our harvest. We are all working hard this year to break even.
Like all American farmers, we’re ready to do what it takes to get the job done and feed the people across our country. But as the number of farmers in America continues to decline, we must take our food security seriously, especially as other nations face growing food shortages and hunger.
The last few years have dealt a lot of blows to agriculture, but thanks to the stability brought by federal agricultural policies and a sugar policy that costs taxpayers nothing, we have been able to meet these challenges – so far. Our two farms have been in our families for several generations, and we want to keep the legacy of farming alive for our children.
If we value a strong food supply, we need America and Congress to continue to support our farmers, now and in the future.
Jason Schatzke grows sugar beets, corn, soybeans, black beans, sunflowers and wheat in North Dakota.
Spear Neuhaus grows sugar cane, citrus fruits, cotton, corn, onions, and vegetables and raises cattle along the Rio Grande River in South Texas.