The situation of food price hysteria in the mainstream press has reached near-epic proportions. Earlier in the week on the ABN, we featured House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson of Minnesota commenting that the misreporting about the causes of food price inflation is the biggest challenge facing agriculture today. The Chairman is correct. Even among some of our own, the root causes of the problem are poorly understood. I spoke with a close friend yesterday who related a story about educating some family members on the issue; they had bought into the media hue and cry that ethanol was the sole source for price hikes at the grocery store. As we’ve reported here more than once, expert economists have proven repeatedly that the causative link between biofuels and food prices is minimal and tenuous at best.
And yet media activists like now pointing the finger at not only farmers and processors, but the retailers themselves:
Forced to pay for once-free sandwich toppings and twice as much for some steak cuts, shoppers are wondering whether higher grocery bills and restaurant tabs truly reflect the trickle down of a global rise in food prices.
Veronica Banks, who lives outside St. Louis, said she suspects that neighborhood corner stores are charging more for many items under the assumption customers won’t pay the bus fare to go bargain hunting.
Tom Seluzicki, a certified public accountant in Washington, said he assumes that some food prices are artificially inflated to “compensate for lost margins on other products.”
And while at least tepidly acknowledging the main causes of global food price inflation, the vast majority on the reporting in the article is about the conspiracy theories of some cabal of retailers setting prices to gouge the lowly consumer.
Meanwhile, or sanctioned for buying produce out of season. In one of the most unrealistic, overreaching bit of nanny-state rhetoric I’ve ever seen, the well-known hothead told the BBC “restaurants should be fined if they serve fruit and vegetables which are not in season,” explaining that “fruit and vegetables should be locally-sourced and only on menus when in season.” He says he’s spoken with the Prime Minister about the situation and suggested potential legislation. The article presents some logical contrarian arguments from Oxfam and the National Farmers Union (the UK version, that is).
And so there you have the nexus of food price nuttiness and global warming alarmism. To combat these two media-fueled crises, we now have self-appointed do-gooder “experts” calling for untenable regulations about what you can eat and cook to combat two issues that are essentially non-issues to begin with.
In terms of the food vs. fuel debate, experts at the University of Illinois are the latest to chime in, pointing out that the media has failed to do its job in reporting on this ongoing story: “An important component of the food-versus-fuel debate that is not well understood is how increases in wealth for Asian consumers are dramatically affecting the markets for commodities worldwide,” says Peter Goldsmith, director of the National Soybean Research Laboratory and an associate professor in the U of I’s Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics. The basic concepts of economics 101 have apparently been lost upon the Fourth Estate in Goldsmith’s analysis, as reported by our friends at : “As a component of the food-vs.-fuel debate, there is an economic principle known as elasticity. Simply defined, this means as incomes move up, food consumption and expenditures change. This is why small increases in income in heavily populated nations like India and China can have major impacts on commodity markets, especially those tied to protein.”
Here’s hoping the good doctor can have some success in explaining the realities of the situation to the elitist media; the price of oil, the capacity to produce our own energy supplies, and the appetites of the Far East are the real causes for concern when we head to the grocery store.