Mon, 17 Oct 2022 12:04:10 CDT
By Congressman Tom Cole
Raging inflation over the last two years has caused prices to increase for Americans on nearly everything. This includes the skyrocketing cost of the most basic necessity of food. Following last week’s recognition of National Farmers Day, it is certainly not lost on me that soaring prices are squeezing our hardworking agricultural producers and communities. Indeed, it is not just at the grocery stores where these prices have risen, but also for our food producers, where the production line begins.
During my travels across the Fourth District throughout this year, I have visited with numerous farmers and ranchers. As their biggest challenges to productivity, they always pointed to soaring prices, supply chain issues and labor shortages. First, not only has it become increasingly difficult to buy farm equipment and other necessities such as fertilizer for crops due to our supply chain’s dependence on other countries around the world, but the price has skyrocketed as well. In fact, just last week, fertilizer prices in North America rose by 11 percent, which is the sharpest increase since March. And in the coming months, the cost of growing food is expected to increase 18 percent in the United States.
As a result, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been forced to increase the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits by 12.5 percent, giving recipients a roughly $104 bonus for food. While this increase certainly helps lower income families and seniors living on fixed incomes, it still does not keep up with the ever-rising costs of food at the grocery stores, which jumped 13.5 percent in August alone.
With the cost of groceries increasing and the holiday season approaching, putting food on the table during Thanksgiving and Christmas will be even more difficult for American families this year. According to the Oklahoma Farm Report, the price of turkey reached a record high in September and is 112 percent more expensive than last year.
Our nation’s agriculture industry is comprised of some of the hardest workers in our country. They have learned how to adapt to harsh weather conditions in order to keep their operations going. That alone is difficult, but when combined with rising inflation and the supply chain crisis, it puts family owned farms and ranches at risk as they struggle to navigate the unforeseen increase costs. Indeed, our hardworking farmers and ranchers work year-round to keep food on the tables of American families.
In September, the Biden Administration hosted a White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health and outlined a national strategy for solutions to these challenges. Within this strategy is an emphasis on families being able to afford healthy food options at home and in schools. While I agree this is a very important concern, Democrats unfortunately continue to push policies that do not allow for this issue to be solved effectively. How can families afford nutritious food options when the prices continue to rise? How can farmers continue to produce this food when they can’t afford to grow crops or raise cattle?
It is far past time that Democrats controlling the White House and both chambers of Congress work with Republicans to rebuild our economy and help the American people during these hard times. This issue transcends beyond partisan politics and as elected officials, we must uphold our sacred duty to safeguard the pursuit of the American Dream for all our citizens.