To read the full letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack delivered on March 31, 2022, please download a PDF of the letter.
Dear Mr. Secretary,
Earlier this year, U.S. food prices hit their highest mark since 2011.1 Since then, the Russian war in Ukraine — already a catastrophe for millions of people in the region — has threatened to trigger a global food crisis by creating turmoil in agricultural markets around the globe. Food prices are already rising even higher due to the fact that Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of wheat, oil seeds, and natural gas,5 and this in turn is straining grocery store budgets for many U.S. families.
Rising food prices have prompted calls for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to allow farmers to grow more wheat by opening farmland now enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). We, the undersigned organizations, believe there are far better tools available to address the impacts of food price inflation, and we urge you to refrain from opening CRP acreage.
CRP is a critical conservation program. By 2020, CRP had prevented more than nine billion tons of soil erosion or enough soil to fill 600 million dump trucks, reduced nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, sequestered an annual average of 49 million tons of greenhouse gases which is equivalent to taking nine million cars off the road, and created more than three million acres of restored wetlands while protecting more than 175,000 stream miles with riparian forest and grass buffers.
There are currently more than 22 million acres enrolled in CRP. In 2022, just over 4 million of those acres are set to expire,8 however, only a fraction of the expiring acres are in states that commonly plant wheat9 and many are located in areas struggling with drought conditions.10 Opening CRP acres for farming would likely have no impact on global production, and consequently, no impact on food prices.
To continue reading the letter, please download a PDF.