April 13, 2011
Feed people, not machines
What are you doing next weekend? If planting a vegetable garden is not on your "honey-do" list, a few unsettling facts may change your plans. Simply stated, we are running low on food in this country. Not surprisingly, the USDA reports that US farmers are reaching the limits of arable land even as corn plantings will be the second largest since World War II, and soybeans the third highest ever. Why the record crops? The USDA's March 2011 Grains Stock reports the following changes in stored grains positions from March 1, 2010 to March 1, 2011.
Corn stocks ... totaled 6.52 billion bushels, down 15 percent.Soybeans stored ... totaled 1.25 billion bushels, down 2 percent.All wheat stored ... totaled 1.42 billion bushels, up 5 percent.Durum wheat stocks ... totaled 56.5 million bushels, up 2 percent.Barley stocks ... totaled 138 million bushels, down 12 percentOats stored ... totaled 86.3 million bushels, [down] 12 percent.Grain sorghum stored ... totaled 171 million bushels, down 3 percent.Sunflower stocks ... totaled 867 million pounds, down 29 percent.
"We are not going to run out of (corn and soybeans) but we are in a very tight situation," said USDA Chief Economist, Joseph Glauber. Somehow that is not very reassuring.
According to the Wall Street Journal on April 1, 2011:
Demand for corn is so strong-thanks to the expanding appetite of the federally supported ethanol-fuel industry, record-high prices of corn-fed livestock and booming farm exports-that grain traders are worried that even the bumper corn harvest farmers could produce this year might not be enough to rebuild unusually low U.S. corn reserves to comfortable levels.The USDA said farmers intend to reduce their acreage of black and other specialty beans by 32% from last year. Food processors are trying to discourage this shift in acreage by offering some farmers roughly 40% more for some types of beans, which could force restaurants and retailers to pay more.The amount of unfarmed land that is suitable or readily available for production is relatively tight. Economists say some cattle ranchers are reluctant to put grazing pastures under plow because beef prices are at record highs.Some food executives want Washington to cool the grain-price rally by reducing federal incentives for the ethanol-fuel industry, which is consuming about 40% of the nation's corn crop.
40 % of all corn produced will be used for fuel? As US and global corn prices rise, millions of consumers will be forced to pay skyrocketing prices for meat, dairy and poultry since corn feeds our cattle and chickens. This "green energy" plan, to use food crops as an alternative to drilling for domestic oil, illustrates the monumental stupidity of the ethanol programs. Unfortunately both political parties have extensive constitute bases that reap huge profits from the taxpayer subsidies involved in agriculture and ethanol.
Only when hamburger and eggs become prohibitively expensive, will the political class find themselves booted out of office and we can once again grow corn to feed people rather than machines.