Americans enjoy the most affordable and abundant food supply in the world.

By Mike Barnett

Americans enjoy the most affordable and abundant food supply in the world.  The price of food is cheap…for now. But that’s subject to change.

Here are five reasons why:

• The price of oil will go up. Remember last time that happened? The price of food shot up, too and is just now starting to come down. But don’t blame the cost of commodities. There’s only pennies worth of corn in a box of corn flakes. Transportation, packaging and processing costs rise with the cost of fuel. Next time the price of oil skyrockets, look for increases in the price of food. Solar, wind, nuclear and biofuels must continue to make advances to lessen this dependency on oil.

• Climate Change Legislation. The bill being considered in the Senate is worse than the bill that passed in the House. Cap-and-trade is little more than a cap-and-tax. Consumers will pay more for everything that is produced through processes using fossil fuels, including food production. Which might not be so bad. But the U.S. is looking to set an example for the world to follow. If the world doesn’t follow, our economy–including food production–will spiral down the drain. Where will we get our food then? From foreign sources who have no qualms producing food with the use of fossil fuels. That food from foreign sources won’t come cheap.

• Food activists. There is a movement that would like to dictate the way we eat. Localvores say all food should be raised locally (guess we eat dormant bermudagrass during July and August in Texas; I guess they starve in Vermont 9 months out of the year). Others say all agriculture should be “sustainable” and food should be grown “naturally” without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. Others operate under the guise of animal rights groups to say we should quit eating meat. Many of the strong advocates for these systems would love to legislate modern agriculture right out of business. Then they’ll get their wish for local and natural food for everyone…except there will be so little food and it will be so expensive that no one will be able to afford it.

• A growing world population. The world will have an extra 9 billion mouths to feed by the year 2050. The future of food is one of starvation or plenty, depending on the road we choose. World food production will have to increase 70 percent to feed this hungry horde. Genetic advances hold great promise in feeding a hungry world but are opposed by many. Proper research can produce an arsenal of new tools to fight hunger, but only if dollars are committed and food activists stand down. Also, a growing middle class worldwide will start demanding the same good things we enjoy eating. Food will become more expensive.

• More regulations. The whiff of a “cow tax” by EPA had producers sneezing recently. EPA has announced they are going to use their scientific resources in “a new and more aggressive way regarding atrazine,” a corn herbicide. FDA officials indicated they intend to eliminate growth promotion as an acceptable antibiotic use in livestock production. An EPA crackdown on clean up of the Chesapeake Bay (what used to be a partnership between farmers and conservation agencies and government has turned into forced changes on farmers without consideration of the financial costs and ripple effects)…what happens here could serve as a blueprint for other watersheds across the nation. The tiny Delta Smelt has taken precedence over Central California farmers. Water has been shut off for irrigation to save the endangered specie resulting in thousands of idled acres and loss of thousands of agriculture related jobs. And the list goes on and on and on… Excessive regulation will result in the loss of farmers resulting in the loss of food. Less food means what’s left will cost more.

Let me end with a quote from former Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns: “It seems like agriculture gets hit from a different angle every day. Environmental groups push extreme policies that would decrease productivity. Animal rights groups push an agenda that is based on emotion rather than science. And there seems to be, from the current administration, an idyllic vision of the countryside, without much of a realistic understanding of how modern-day agriculture feeds an ever-growing world population.”

U.S. agriculture is at a crossroads. One fork leads to the continuation of the most abundant and affordable food supply in the world.

If the U.S. decides to block this road of plenty, the other fork leads to excessive regulation, activism, and legislation. This road has the U.S. giving in to the demands of food activists, drying up our agriculture research dollars and deemphasizing alternative fuels. This “other” fork will lead to less food production, fewer farmers, higher food costs and more hungry mouths in the world.

I pick abundant and affordable food. That other road needs to be barricaded for good.

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

8 Responses to “Five reasons you will pay more for food”

  1. May be the world should start to concentrate on what is best for the world instead of who has the most money.

  2. Garth Williams says:

    The US still supplies a huge amount of Food/Agriculture globally. Would not protecting this Commodity be an essential part of doing what is best for the World? Keep things in perspective Brett. It’s not always "about Money" Unless you are a Farmer/Rancher that is trying to STAY THE HELL in Business.

  3. I didn’t say ‘it’ is always about money.

  4. Marilynn Dierschke says:

    One consolation is that farmers and ranchers are survivors and can easily move to becoming subsistance farmers rather than being idealistic and trying to feed the world. It’s a labor of love because none of us is getting rich off of it. If bad goes to worse, we will survive but what about those who don’t know a callous from a wart and haven’t a clue about how to make it if they can’t go to the store and buy it. Agriculture has been the custodian of the fine art of living independently and self-sufficiently for a long time. But those in agriculture represent less than 2% of the work force in the US and the numbers are decreasing rapidly. Can this be the natural order of things to come?

  5. Dan Dierschke says:

    Mike, once again you are right on in describing many of the key issues in american agriculture. I was able to experience living in another country in the early 60’s, a time that supermarkets were barely known. Food was purchased daily in open air markets, files where shooed off the meat in cases where the animals had been butchered or in some cases sold live. Because of poor transportation most food was produced relatively locally and was seasonal. Economists reported food costs for a family was 47% of income. That is the ideal some are advocating?

    It would be a great experiment to invite some of these localvores to spend a month working on a farm producing sustainable foods without pesticides, herbicides, bioengineering, or machinery, preferably in August.

  6. JP Schuster says:

    We continue to struggle with the idea of saving the world and everyone will be taken care of by someone else. The true agricutlural producer works daily to continue to provide not only for his/her family but others who have no survival skills outside of the of their "superstore". Education is a key element for production agriculture and protecting our food supply today and for future generations. Emotions are strong from both sides but realize that the world population and growth will not survive without American agriculture. Thanks for providing and doing what you do as farmers and ranchers and setting the standard for safety and cost that will never be duplicated on the global market.

  7. Mike Barnett says:

    There are some great observations coming in!

    Mike

  8. David A. Wagner says:

    Has anyone else considered the possibilities of raising Hemp here in Texas? Canadian farmers seem to be doing pretty well with it. The U.S. is now the largest importer of Hemp products. It grows hardily and doesn’t require pesticides. It can be used for it’s fiber, food and oil. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t any obstacles that must be overcome (especially legislation) in doing so but take a look at the video links I’ve provided below and let’s talk about this topic more… I’m thinking we are missing a boat on this.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wspw-SdyGDE
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kZTLHEPrMc

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