Are Food Prices Too High or Not High Enough?

By Gene Logsdon
The Contrary Farmer

“I have a hunch this [NPR] report was inspired by a news release out of the ivy halls of agrimonsantaclaus.”

These days I doubt there is a correct answer to any of our social problems. We can only choose to act on which wrong answers do the least harm. Recently I listened to a news report on the rise in global food prices that didn’t quite add up to me. The foregone conclusion was that climate change in the form of too much rain was causing food shortages and rising food prices around the world. No attempt was made to give evidence that climate change was the cause; it was simply presumed to be the case. The report focused on what farmers were doing to cope.

I can’t speak to the rice problem because I’ve never grown any, although I do know that much of the crop spends quite a bit of its growing season standing in water so maybe heavier than usual rain could be helpful. If we could get our corn and wheat to grow in standing water, we would be way ahead of the game right now.

But what the report then said about American farming sounded vaguely lopsided to someone who has been around corn and wheat a long time. First of all, the report seemed to be contradicting its opening fears of coming starvation. Actually, the commentator said, American grain production was generally up, not down, although perhaps not up enough to feed an ever rising world population. If that is so, maybe global warming has helped, not hindered. But there was not one word about how rising population might be part of the problem.

But after having primed the listener with the notion that we are all in danger of starvation because of grain shortages except the rich, the report did an about face and said that American farmers were coping with the heavy rains fairly well. Farmers were adapting to climate change three ways: 1) new varieties that responded better to adverse conditions; 2) spraying more fungicides to ward off fungal diseases; and 3) using bigger equipment.

Read more at The Contrary Farmer

2 responses to “Are Food Prices Too High or Not High Enough?

  1. Didacus Ramos

    Not sure about most of the questions the article raises. That would require some real research. Weather patterns in Northern California have hurt farmers severly.
    As a micro-farmer (urban, small parcel–1/4 acre, intensive) I can tell you that having a crew of farmers makes all the difference. We prefer partners to hired labor but either gets the job done. So, my kind of farming might well help with food production and urban unemployment. More than saying that requires solid data from a well planned study.

  2. “I want to say that population pressures are far more a cause of high food prices than climate change, but I’m not sure that is the right story either.”

    Why no mention of commodity or oil speculators? I’d bet they are responsible for the majority of the price increases.

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