andrew schneider investigates

June 16, 2008

Midwest flooding will hike food prices

Filed under: Food - good, bad, weird,Food Safety,Sustainable food — Andrew Schneider @ 14:20

The images on TV are dramatic and painful to watch, with houses piling up behind bridges as flood waters continue to rampage through much of the Midwest. Ag experts anticipate massive distruction to the nation’s corn supply, as well as concerns about the area’s huge livestock operations.

The relentless rains, cold temperatures and record flood water mixed with what some experts called the “nation’s ill-conceived corn ethanol mandate” has formed what the Environmental Working Group has called “a perfect storm (that) is helping to push food and feed prices to record highs, while doing nothing to put a dent in soaring prices at the pump.”

Congress must revisit the entire issue of biofuels and its imact on the food supply. the report said.

EWG, a public-interest research organization released a report supporting these conclusions late today after extensive interviews with top agriculture economists and climatologists.

In Iowa, 1.13 million acres of corn, nearly 10 percent of the state’s total, already have been lost, and 4 million more are currently under water. Across the Midwest, millions more acres are likely to suffer significant yield loss because fields have been too wet to plant or are too wet to apply fertilizer or control weeds, according to the report.

When the Bush administration and Congress triggered the ethanol boom in 2005 with the Renewable Fuels Standard mandate and then raised the mandate five-fold in 2007, they ignored the impact this policy could have on food prices, relying entirely on good weather to make this roll-of-the dice decision a success.

“Our ethanol policy requires perfect weather, and not surprisingly, we aren’t getting it,” said EWG Senior Agriculture Analyst Michelle Perez.

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