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Rep. Vicky Hartzler: How to fix inflation that's hurting the Heartland

Springfield News-Leader
By Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO-04)

It’s no secret that Missouri consumers are facing rising prices and inflationary pressure everywhere they turn. From the gas station to the grocery store, Missouri pocketbooks are hurting.

But family budgets are not the only thing being squeezed.

Inflation’s impact on our farmlands is making a dent in the livelihoods of our state’s farmers and ranchers.

From sunup to sundown — 365 days a year — America’s farmers and ranchers work countless hours to produce a healthy and nutritious food supply. Since this administration entered the White House, however, our agriculture industry has taken a hit — with fuel and fertilizer prices going through the roof and producer prices following suit.

Under President Biden, America’s fertilizer prices have soared. Fertilizer inputs such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium increased 125 percent in cost since January 2021. Many farmers and ranchers are having to forego applying fertilizer, which will reduce yield and profit.

A few weeks ago, Missouri diesel prices reached a record high of $5.38, and gasoline reached $4.68. To fill a tractor or truck involves spending lots of dollars. From the diesel used to power farm equipment to the natural gas used in fertilizer production, energy costs have reached new heights.

This is on top of an increase in farm sector production expenses, which have seen a 5.1 percent hike on top of last year’s 9.4 percent bump. With these numbers, it’s easy to see why our farmers are worried. But there are solutions we could implement today which would put us back on track.

We first must take immediate steps to unleash America’s domestic energy economy and lower farm input costs. I’ve supported several pieces of legislation like the American Energy Independence from Russia Act that would reinstate production and construction of the Keystone pipeline, remove all restrictions on liquified natural gas (LNG) exports, increase oil and gas production, and restart oil and gas leasing on federal lands and waters — which was halted by the Biden administration. President Biden must prioritize our domestic energy production and put a stop to our dependence on foreign adversaries.

Second, we must expand access to fertilizer by increasing domestic production. A large amount of fertilizer found in the United States, like phosphate, is located on federal lands. However, achieving the federal and state approvals to mine such ore is time-consuming and often filled with onerous government roadblocks. Once again, President Biden has the tools readily available to solve this problem.

The Secretary of the Interior must also consider potash and phosphorus for inclusion on the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) list of "critical minerals.” Inclusion on the USGS critical minerals list would help to fast-track the permitting process for fertilizer, which is normally bogged down by bureaucratic government processes. With this action, President Biden could provide our domestic fertilizer industry the boost it so desperately needs.

Third, as farmers and ranchers continue to face rising input prices, it is paramount that producers have access to reliable and cost-effective crop protection tools. Unfortunately, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to abandon sound and reliable science when making decisions regarding pesticides.

We must restore the EPA to a science-based process. Farmers do not need federal agencies creating additional uncertainty by leaving them without readily available and cost-effective alternatives for key planting decisions. I have worked with my fellow colleagues to ensure the EPA uses reliable, science-based evidence in their recent decisions regarding Enlist One, Enlist Duo, Chlorpyrifos, and Waters of the United States (WOTUS). We prevailed with Enlist but more needs to be done.

Common sense must prevail so farmers can do what they do best — provide the safest, most abundant and most affordable food and fiber supply in the world.

As one of the few farmers in Congress, rest assured I will continue to fight for those who put our food on our tables, clothes on our backs and homegrown fuels in our vehicles.

Representative Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) currently serves on the House Agriculture Committee in the United States House of Representatives.