Archive for September, 2012

September 6, 2012

World food prices rose10% in July, pushed by Midwest drought

From The Chicago Tribune’s food blog The Stew –
Chicago, IL: By Ricardo Lopez

4:59 p.m. CDT, August 30, 2012
Global food prices jumped 10% in July from the month before, driven up by the severe Midwest drought which has pushed the price of grains to record levels, the World Bank reported Thursday.

The price of maize and wheat rose by 25% from June to July, and soybeans rose by 17%, according to the Washington-based organization.

Overall, the World Bank’s Food Price Index, which tracks the price of traded food commodities, was 6% higher than July of last year.

The sharp price jumps are attributed to the Midwest drought, which has destroyed more than half of the country’s corn crop. The drought, the worst in decades, has pushed the price of corn to record prices. Corn futures have jumped about 60% since the drought started in late June. They are now trading above $8 a bushel.

The U.S. is the world’s largest exporter of corn and soybeans.

And that rise rise in grain prices was starkly higher in Africa, the organization reported.

In Mozambique, maize rose 113%. In South Sudan sorghum rose 220% and 180% in Sudan.

Still, despite the rising prices, the organization said it does not predict people will riot as they did in 2008 when food prices last spiked to record levels.

“We cannot allow these historic price hikes to turn into a lifetime of perils as families take their children out of school and eat less nutritious food to compensate for the high prices,” said World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. “Countries must strengthen their targeted programs to ease the pressure on the most vulnerable population and implement the right policies.”,0,4588755.story

September 5, 2012

Changing the question, changing the conversation about organic farming.

Dahinda, IL: There is a new study out by Stanford University that says that there is “Little evidence of health benefits from organic foods.”This is another study where changing the question changes the conversation. Organic ag is nothing more that a method to grow crops in a way that does little damage to the environment and reduces our dependence on fossil fuel. There is an added benefit in having no pesticides in your food. In a strict sense, organic agriculture is distinguished from so-called conventional agriculture by using no synthetic pesticides or herbicides, less fossil fuel, growing food; fiber; etc. in a way that does little harm to the environment, and is humane to animals.

This study seems to have talked about the environmental and social benefits of organic ag and hit the news wires on a slow news day. The media seems to have downplayed the environmental part of the study to push their audience’s buttons about health. We live in an age of food scares with reports and studies coming in constantly that are often contradictory. We may see a study in the next year or so touting the benefits of organically grown food! The term “organic” is loosely defined anyway, and has been co-opted by big businesses who do not practice any sustainable methods in the spirit of what organic originally meant, and should be replaced by something else.

Another term, “sustainable,” is already widely in use. And since sustainable describes agriculture that uses less fossil fuel, and artificial inputs such as pesticides, it is better suited to promote the methods used in organic agriculture. Much research has gone into growing food organically including work done at the Rodale Institute and much of this research is nothing more than ways to grow more crops sustainably. Some of this research has been adopted by conventional ag including no till practices to reduce erosion. The more oil goes up in price, the more the price of sustainably grown organic food will be on par with conventionally grown food, and maybe even less. That will be the time that sustainable organic practices will be adopted more and more by conventional growers. Especially the pest and weed control methods.

September 1, 2012

A farmer’s perspective 9/1/2012

Dahinda, IL: I put a 450 gallon water tank below a downspout on our garage. With the rain we got it filled to the top. The rain also helped loosen the soil so that I can finally start some fall crops. I am hopefully going to get some lettuce, broccoli, and spinach in this weekend. The soaking rain also means that the soil will have enough moisture to plant garlic next month.