Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Can't afford steak? Try Passenger Pigeon

Oil continues to rise again even as gasoline falls although traders are attempting to float the rumor (so far unfounded)that fuel pipelines could be disrupted by the record flooding. This could be the worst flooding since 1926 and that was a bad one, it brought Herbert Hoover to national prominence as head of the Red Cross relief effort. The Federal government took no part in helping the flood victims and this set the tone for the Hoover Presidency even as he spent unprecedented sums to bail out the big banks and the Republican rich after the economy crashed.

China and Russia have quietly ended exports of fuel to combat inflation from the commodity price run up. Fuel joins grain on the list of things becoming difficult to get, not because of big shortfall but from speculators tying up supply. (that supply and demand thing is great if you control the supply, not so good if you can’t afford food)

The US is facing a likely grain shortfall near the point of early harvest sometime this summer. The first stage of the grain harvest begins in the Texas desert, oh wait, Texas isn’t supposed to be a desert, that explains the lack of a harvest of any kind.

At the other end of the harvest season is North Dakota but much of the  farmland there is still under water from the snow melt. All that melted snow is heading south to add to an already flooding Mississippi which is expected to swallow 3 million acres of cropland in the three lower states alone. Some of this land will not be farmed for years if ever. Even on land not flooded planting has been seriously delayed by cold wet weather with high potential losses depending on how erratic this summer’s weather turns out to be.

The good news is that most grain goes to feed livestock, even that used to make ethanol mostly ends up as leftover “mash” which is made into processed cattle feed. It’s also used to make all the things that go into processed human food even vitamins, food supplements. Also flavor enhancers like the notorious MSG (that’s not a rapper, think food allergies) these are now concealed by calling them “modified proteins and such”. Any of that stuff on the label with the long names comes from processed corn or soybeans.

You will eventually see higher prices for meat even though prices for cattle are going down right now. Demand for meat is falling because high gasoline prices are sucking consumers wallets dry. At least that’s the excuse for paying the remaining farmers less, most livestock is owned by big corporations that don’t sell through the “free market”. These are called “vertical monopolies” and are technically illegal. President Obama had made noises about enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act for the first time in decades but he hasn‘t been heard from lately.

Family farmers that were instrumental in the Progressive movement a hundred years are ago are largely extinct, gone the way of labor unions and the passenger pigeon.   www.prairie2.com