MSGA president meets with Ukrainian ambassador

Minnesota farmers manage plenty of obstacles on the path to profitability. Weather issues, geopolitical strife, damaging legislation, just to name a few. But what they don’t have to deal with is getting killed while maintaining their crop.

Bob Worth, president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, heard this sobering reality during a roundtable conversation with the Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S., Oksana Markarova, Nov. 30 at Minnesota Farmers Union’s headquarters.

“It’s really tough for agriculture out there,” Worth said. “It’s sad. Russia puts land mines in the field, and a farmer will be harvesting the crop and a land mine will blow up the combine.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, Ukraine has struggled to export its agricultural products. Ukraine is one of the world’s top agricultural producers and exporters, playing a vital role in supplying oilseeds and grains to the global market. More than half of Ukraine’s land area is arable land, and the agriculture industry employs about 14 percent of Ukraine’s population. Agricultural products are Ukraine’s most important exports. In 2021 they totaled $27.8 billion, accounting for 41 percent of the country’s $68 billion in overall exports.

MSGA President Bob Worth (right) visits with Gov. Tim Walz (middle) and farmer and philanthropist Howard Buffett during a Nov. 30 meeting with the Ukrainian Ambassador to the U.S.

“Now, they can’t export the products because the Black Sea is tied up,” Worth said. “They’re very rich in fertilizer – potash, phosphate.”

Worth told the delegation he would urge Minnesota’s congressional delegation to support Ukraine’s efforts and asked the ambassador if the country had a need for soybeans.

“She said, ‘Oh, yes, we need soybeans and corn because we don’t raise them,’” Worth said. “I gave her my card to contact me, and I’ll forward that right on to staff at Minnesota Soybean.”

Gov. Tim Walz was in attendance, along with commodity leaders and Minnesota Department of Agriculture officials. The visit was co-sponsored by Ukraine, the German Marshall Fund and the Howard Buffet Foundation. Howard Buffett (son of Warren Buffett), who grows soybeans on his family farm in Illinois, said his foundation donated 50 John Deere combines to Ukrainian farm.

Worth traveled nearly 400 miles round-trip to attend the 90-minute meeting and appreciated the invite from Minnesota Farmers Union.

“It was well worth my time to go,” he said. “I learned a lot about Ukraine and their issues. This was a very good meeting to go to. … We get frustrated with a lot in America, but we really don’t have much to complain about compared to what’s going on in Ukraine.”

Ambassador Markarova had a message for the farming community and Americans.

“We can win this one,” Markarova said. “But we will stay the course. We need you, our friends, to stay the course with us.”

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