President Biden likely to address War, Food and Fuel Costs, Ocean Shipping Reform

President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden
(File Photo)

President Joe Biden will give his first State of the Union address Tuesday evening, and it likely won’t be the speech he and his staff had anticipated giving even a week ago.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said it will be a difficult address for Biden to give because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Our thoughts and prayers are extended to those brave people (in Ukraine) who are fighting fiercely against the bully that’s trying to take over their country,” Vilsack said during a discussion with AgriTalk Host Chip Flory on Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier on Tuesday, Biden authorized a decision to release 30 million barrels of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Much of that decision, Vilsack said, was in response to the war in the Ukraine. However, the decision also was made in part to try and address the prices Americans are paying for fuel.

“There’s no question the president is cognizant of the higher prices American farmers and families are paying right now at the pump,” Vilsack said.

He also referenced Biden’s decision to authorize the USDA to provide assistance to the biofuel industry and expand the infrastructure for higher blends as an effort to stem higher fuel prices.

“Remember, we're putting $100 million dollars on the table for E15 expansion and higher blends in the country,” Vilsack said. “It's why (Biden) basically signed off on the EPA providing record levels of biofuels in 2022. Whether it's in the speech tonight or not, let's just make sure we look at the entire picture here, because it's a pretty significant one.”

When Flory asked whether the president would address the Department of Justice’s investigation into the meatpacking industry and cattle market prices tonight, Vilsack demurred.

“You know, that's being pretty closely held, as all investigations are,” he told Flory.

Broad-Ranging Topics

Additional topics Biden is likely to address in the State of the Union range from climate change to infrastructure improvements, health care, and child-care costs.

Vilsack reminded AgriTalk listeners that the U.S. has had a growing economy in the past year. “We’ve had the fastest job growth in history; we've had the fastest economic growth of the country in 40 years. Let's not forget that,” he said.

When Flory asked whether there will be any surprises in the speech, Vilsack replied, “Well, see if the president mentions anything about ocean shipments and references actions by the Department of Justice, the Maritime Commission, directed at ocean shippers.

“That may not be something that people would normally think about,” Vilsack continued. “But given the fact that we've had so much difficulty in terms of getting things to and from the United States, that has exacerbated the supply chain challenges that often result in higher costs.”

President Biden’s address is slated for 9 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday.

To hear the complete discussion between Secretary Vilsack and Flory on AgriTalk, listen here:


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