Promoted from DJ’s comment to Wes Rolley’s post on rising food prices
In our area, the price of animal feed, from corn-based feeds to barley to dog food, is up about 40% since the first of the year, an annualized increase of about 240%. You can bet that’s going to be reflected in our food prices soon.
And while the production of ethanol from corn is absurd, since it costs more energy than it produces, it’s also worth noting that far more corn goes into the production of High Fructose Corn Syrup, which also reduces the amount of (real) food available. Barbara Kingsolver, in her book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, makes an argument that our agribusinesses produce HFCS and hydrogenated soy oil because they need to sell more food to affluent Americans who have money. There is no profit in selling tortillas or soy meat to the poor. Instead, they pack our food as full of empty calories as possible. And billions of dollars in farm subsidies ensure the primacy of this junk food.
It’s also worth noting that our food is relatively cheap, thanks to fossil fuel and agribusiness subsidies. A $2 loaf of bread costs about 3% of an American’s typical daily wage ($8/hr). In contrast, a 12 cent loaf of bread costs 10% of a typical Sri Lankan’s daily wage ($2/day). Sri Lanka doesn’t produce wheat, so the push to adopt bread as a staple at the expense of rice means less local food consumed and more money flowing out of Sri Lankan pockets into someone else’s. It’s the same trend that we face here.
I am a dairy farmer – I produce artisan cheese on a small farm. I am not eligible for any subsidies, and I don’t ask for any. But I’d like to see agribusinesses compete on a level playing field. Cut their subsidies. Cut subsidies for their fossil fuel fertilizer. Let junk food prices rise. Then real food will be more competitive.
It is not just about producing ethanol or corn syrup. Oil is an important word when talking about soaring food prices. The price of oil has risen substantially in the past few months for different reasons and higher gasoline prices mean that it costs more to get food to the stores. It seems oil price inflation will affect all areas of our lives.