By Ty Higgins, Ohio Ag Net
There is no doubt that the recent drought will have a lasting impact. Not only on the farmer’s bottom line, but it will also result in a higher total of your grocery bill. But at what point did corn become a food and not a commodity?
I make this point as other facets of agriculture also have to pass along a price hike due to a poor growing season. Apples are a prime example. At a farmer’s market last week a gallon of apple cider was $8! Obviously the apple crop was sub-par or the jug cap was made of solid gold. But you know what; people that wanted it enough were buying it.
I mulled this over (pun intended) and realized that not all products grown in the field are considered a food, until it is convenient. When corn was $4 a bushel, farmers grew a crop. It was traded as a commodity and was being gobbled up by China, the ethanol plants, livestock producers and oh yeah, it is in most of the goods that you consume every day. The latter use is usually an afterthought.
Then there is a point where, because of conditions beyond the farmers control, the amount of corn produced, may decline. As the price rises, the way corn is perceived changes. All of the sudden, it is a food and if the price doesn’t come down, the U.N. threatens of massive hunger in third-world countries, the ethanol industry is threatened with a mandate that more than likely won’t even make a dent in price or slow down the production of ethanol and the livestock industry has to look for creative ways to feed or lessen the herd to break even.
I am not taking sides in the food versus fuel debate. I have always thought that it should be a food and fuel versus the world debate. If demand for both is strong enough to push corn to $8, $9 or $10 so be it. For years, farmers of grain, dairy and livestock have had to settle for less and have been told what their product and hard work was worth. America has a dominant product to put out no matter what form of Ag produces it.
Our foreign producers have gouged us for something that we can’t live without. Just last week I paid $4 for gas. Consumers just take it for what it is and fill up at the pump anyway and drive along. So why should our most valuable domestic product be any different. If the price is $8, that’s just the way it is. Yes, everything at the store will go up in price as well as everything that corn is used for will have a higher input costs. Fill your cupboards and your fridge for that price or think of more creative ways to get three meals a day, just as farmers have had to be creative to continue to farm.
As a consumer, this will be hard to chew on as I try to stretch my dollar as far as possible, but thanks to America’s farmers at least I will always have something to chew on.
It is the core lesson from the apple grower at that farmer’s market. Do what you can with what you have and let the markets take care of everything else.