Biden highlights plans to help lower prices for farmers, shoppers during Illinois stop

President Joe Biden speaks with farmer Jeff O'Connor in Kankakee, Illinois on May 11, 2022.
President Joe Biden speaks with farmer Jeff O'Connor in Kankakee, Illinois on May 11, 2022.(White House press feed)
Published: May. 11, 2022 at 6:44 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WGEM) - President Joe Biden visited a farm in Kankakee, Ill., Wednesday to highlight plans to help farmers and lower food costs for American families. Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine has cut off critical sources of food for the world.

Ukraine is the world’s largest producer of wheat and corn, but Biden said the Russian invasion has stopped much of the planting season for farmers there. Although, American farmers must still deal with the top companies controlling more than half the markets for beef, pork, and poultry.

The president believes those companies are charging more to sell products to grocery stores which lead to higher grocery prices for you.

“As the big companies made massive profits, the prices you see at the grocery stores have gone up and the prices farmers received have gone down,” Biden explained. “This reflects a market distorted by the lack of competition.”

Biden spoke at O’Connor farms, a family-owned property that produces wheat, corn and soybeans. The Democrat said the United States can overcome the gap, but farmers like Jeff O’Connor need more investments from the federal government.

“We’ve always combined generations of know-how with cutting edge technology to feed us and the world,” Biden said. “And I’m going to keep fighting for family farmers like Jeff so they can do what they do best.”

The president said he is looking into ways to extend “double cropping” insurance for farmers who can reuse their land throughout the same year. The US Department of Agriculture is also investing $500 million to boost fertilizer production. Biden said these moves will lower prices for customers in the long run. Still, Biden said he needs congress to help with that effort.

Rep. Robin Kelly represents over 1,200 family farms in the 2nd Congressional District. She said it is important that the Biden administration continues to work on lowering costs for farmers and increasing the production of food and animals in Illinois.

“We must ensure that we’re doing everything that we can to protect both our consumers and suppliers from future crises like the COVID-19 pandemic which has caused so many headaches and cost so much money for our farmers,” Kelly said. “The president’s decision to tap into the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust will allow us to provide homegrown commodities like those produced here and across Kankakee to the world’s hungry and help bolster our farms along the way.”

Kelly and U.S. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack joined Biden for a tour of the farm and press conference. Vilsack said the agriculture industry employs 29 million Americans and is the vehicle that helps the United States be a food secure nation. He said Biden continues to focus on exports to ensure family farmers like the O’Connors can get their crops sold.

“He understood and appreciated that farmers need a fair price and consumers need a fair price,” Vilsack said. “That’s why it’s important to expand capacity and competition. We are focused on not only strengthening the Packers and Stockyards Act but investing in processing capacity.”

Vilsack also explained the Biden administration is looking for new ways to increase nutrition assistance for low-income families who continue to struggle throughout this pandemic.

Meanwhile, Jeff and Gina O’Connor were ecstatic to see the president, cabinet and lawmakers celebrating the hard work of farmers. Jeff O’Connor said he supports Biden’s efforts to provide new tools and flexibility to allow farmers to step up to address the food shortage.

“I appreciate both the president’s and Sec. Vilsack’s commitment to conservation and the creation of the tools the administration is providing to invest in climate-smart agriculture which I support and I practice,” O’Connor said. “Mr. President, we are very honored to have you here and the farming community stands ready to maximize production, which we do so well, in this time of world need.”

Biden later spoke at a convention for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at McCormick Place in Chicago. He also attended a fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee with Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

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