As attacks on Ukrainian farms continue, tour guide turns to lawyer and fundraiser

He noted that before the war, Ukrainian agriculture boasted that the country was responsible for feeding up to 600 million people around the world. The war severely limited this ability.

Currently, Ukraine and Russia continue to point fingers at attacks and mines blocking Ukraine’s largest Black Sea port, Odessa. Earlier this week, Russian missiles hit a food warehouse in Odessa.

The city and port are still controlled by Ukrainian forces, but Russian ships control the Black Sea outside the port. Each country blames the other for the mines around the port which block all access for ships to transport grain or other foodstuffs out of the country.

Ukraine is unwilling to allow ships to enter a protected border area, as this would also give access to Russian military vessels. “That is why our official position is that we are not negotiating an agreement with Russia until the Russian ships withdraw and the corridor is safe,” Grynshyn said.

DOCUMENTATION OF LOSSES

Grynshyn’s relationships with farmers all over Ukraine are many. Before the war, Grynshyn helped guide Ukrainian farmers on agricultural tours around the world and did the same for farmers from other countries who wanted to see Ukraine’s agricultural economy.

So when talking about the war, Grynshyn provides a detailed PowerPoint presentation showing the destruction of farms, equipment, livestock, farms and grain elevators across the country.

“Unfortunately, these kinds of images come out every week,” he said. “They deliberately damaged facilities, and in many cases when they couldn’t burn down the elevator in the north of the country, they tore down all the computer electronics and automation, which is the equipment the most expensive. .”

About 2,300 pieces of farm machinery have been reported as destroyed, but Grynshyn said the situation is much harder to assess in occupied parts of the country right now. The government estimates that 30% of agricultural fields are currently occupied or considered unsafe due to bombings and landmines. It is simply dangerous for some farmers to try to enter their fields.

“It’s like Russian roulette for them to harvest or not,” he said.

TRYING TO MOVE THE GRAIN

Revealing the number of products that cannot leave the country, Grynshyn said the Ukrainian government’s latest estimates stand at 7 million metric tons (mmt) of wheat, 14 mmt of corn and 3 mmt of sunflower oil. . “These numbers obviously change with the bombings,” he added.

He noted that the country had exported 1.3mmt so far in June, up almost 50% from May, but still low compared to normal volumes. Grynshyn also pointed out that more grain is coming out of the Romanian port of Constanta, but this volume is still low. Russia also bombed a railway line that ran from Ukraine to Constanta, which further aggravated the situation.

Last week, President Joe Biden said the US government would help build grain elevators in Poland to help Ukrainian exports. Biden pointed to issues with Ukrainian rail gauges differing from other railroads in Europe.

“So we’re going to build silos – temporary silos – on the borders of Ukraine, including in Poland, so that we can transfer it from these cars to these silos, to cars in Europe, and get it to the ocean, and take it across the world. But that takes time,” Biden said.

Grynshyn said he understands there are still logistical issues with building silos on the Polish or Ukrainian side. So far, various foundations have provided more immediate help with silo bags to be used for short-term storage of crops.

REQUEST FOR HELP TO FARMERS

Grynshyn was an English teacher in Ukraine who became a translator and worked with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). He then got into organizing agricultural tours for Ukrainian farmers and others who wanted to see Ukrainian agriculture. Grynshyn has expanded his business to offer tours around the world. When the war started in February, he abandoned his business plans and started raising funds and speaking out about Ukrainian agriculture and the impacts of the war.

Grynshyn now does YouTube updates every two weeks. His organization, World to Rebuild Rural Ukraine (WRRU), raises money to help some small Ukrainian farmers rebuild after losing their farms, equipment and livestock. Grynshyn noted that Ukraine’s small-scale farmers farm just over a quarter of the land, but produce up to 45% of the country’s livestock and 30% of the crops.

“They don’t have access to government programs and don’t qualify for loans to rebuild,” Grynshyn said. “They have no property to sell, and some of them have no place to live.”

His organization, which has a council of consultants and experts on Ukraine, solicits donations from farmers around the world. Among those council members are Charles Stoltenow, dean and director of the University of Nebraska Extension, as well as Neal Kinsey, owner of a soil consulting service in Missouri. WRRU has testimonials from its four board members on its website seeking donations.

Grynshyn asks farmers to pledge 1 cent per bushel of harvest or 1 pound of animal production.

“We strive to deliver the most understandable message to farmers,” Grynshyn said. “We have a global food crisis which is partly due to the war in Ukraine. So at this time we are asking farmers around the world to pledge pennies from their harvest at this time so that they can help small farmers in Ukraine.”

Grynshyn estimates his efforts so far have raised between $15,000 and $20,000, but donations continue to pour in from other countries. He noted that work only started a few months ago and the project is just getting started. Help will also likely be needed for years to come.

More details about WRRU can be found on the group’s website, www.wrru.org.

Chris Clayton can be reached at [email protected]

Follow him on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN