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A GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: Ernst Sounding Alarm on Russia’s ‘Food War’ in Ukraine, Calls on Biden, Senate to Act

“We need action now, Mr. President. Not tomorrow. Now.”

WASHINGTON – With reports surfacing that Russia is targeting Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure and seizing hundreds of thousands of tons of grain, U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa)—a combat veteran and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee—is continuing to sound the alarm as she has for weeks about the impact the lawless invasion is having worldwide, fearing an emerging global food crisis, and is calling on the Biden administration and the Senate to take action immediately to expedite food aid by clearing bureaucratic red tape.

While Congress approved $100 million in food aid in March, astonishingly there are only four vessels in the world designed for this scale of food delivery that meet these bureaucratic U.S. flagship requirements to ship the aid, even though more than 12,000 vessels are currently operating globally that could do the job but are not permitted to under the current restrictions.

Ernst is pushing President Biden to immediately waive those requirements under his authority—something he could do instantly—and is also pressing the Senate to take up her bipartisan measure right away to do the same.

“We are witnessing an emerging global food crisis, happening in real time, because of Putin’s lawless war on Ukraine—the breadbasket of Europe,” said Senator Joni Ernst. “Putin is engaging in a ‘food war,’ targeting Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure and seizing hundreds of thousands of tons of grain, threatening this year’s harvest and putting tens of millions of people worldwide at risk of hunger. While we have the means to provide important food aid right away, bureaucratic red tape is putting an enormous restriction on our shipping capacity, with just four vessels worldwide that meet these onerous shipping requirements.

“The Senate needs to take immediate action on my bipartisan measure to expedite food aid to our friends and partners around the world and clear the bureaucratic red tape that’s in the way at a moment when speed is critical,” she continued. “President Biden could do the same with a stroke of his pen, but so far he’s chosen not to. We need action now, Mr. President. Not tomorrow. Now.”


Current law mandates 50 percent of U.S. food aid exports to be shipped on U.S. flagged vessels, a rule that increased shipping costs by an average of $52.6 million per fiscal year between 2013 and 2018 (on average). U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said that the cost of shipping the food commodities overseas is often higher than the actual costs for the grain and other products themselves right now.

Astonishingly, there are only four dry-bulk shipping vessels for food aid worldwide that meet these shipping requirements while there are more than 12,000 vessels operating globally, according to USDA.

Under current law, the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense, or Congress can waive the 50 percent requirement temporarily. Ernst introduced a bipartisan measure to temporarily waive the requirement also and is pushing for the Senate to act on it.

Ernst, along with fellow member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, U.S. Senator Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), hosted members of Ukrainian civil society for a discussion about Russia’s war in Ukraine and what it means for global food security and agriculture. Ernst also penned an op-ed in entitled, “Ukraine must win the war Putin is waging and Biden needs to step up.”