ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, US — Citing the need for the United States to offset grain production losses resulting from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and address global commodity supply challenges, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and other groups are urging US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to provide flexibility for Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres.

“As Russia’s latest aggression against the sovereign nation of Ukraine enters its fifth week, there is growing concern over the implications this war will have on global food security,” noted the NGFA, the American Bakers Association, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Agricultural Retailers Association, the National Oilseed Processors Association, the North American Millers’ Association, and the North American Export Grain Association in a March 23 letter. “The United States needs to produce more grain and oilseeds to offset the loss of Ukraine’s grain and sunflowers. Time is of the essence.”

Ukraine provides 12% of the wheat, 15% of the corn, 15% of the barley and 50% of the sunflower oil to global markets.

“It remains unclear whether Ukrainian farmers will be able to safely plant crops this spring or harvest their soon-to-ripen winter wheat crops, or if carriers will be able to safely export available commodities out of the region,” the groups noted. 

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) 2017 National Resources Inventory, 26% of general CRP acres were “prime farmland,” which is defined as “land that has the best combination of physical and chemical characteristics for producing food, feed, forage, fiber, and oilseed crops …” 

The groups asked the USDA to provide flexibility to producers to plant crops on prime farmland enrolled in the CRP without penalty, whether on an emergency basis or through an early-out of their current CRP contracts. The groups also urged the USDA to enroll only “environmentally sensitive” land in the latest general CRP signup, which closed on March 11, and preclude adding more prime farmland into the CRP.

The groups encouraged the USDA to instead use working lands programs, including the Environmental Quality Incentives Program and the Conservation Stewardship Program, on prime farmland to the maximum extent possible. 

View the full letter here.