HOPE FOR RURAL WV: FOOD COSTS RISING IN FAILING ECONOMY

(03/02/2009)

By Bob Weaver

Despite decreasing oil costs (the biggest reason given for skyrocketing food costs) food prices continue to go up, with the nation's grocers expressing outrage.

For Calhoun and regional residents, the biggest survival idea in the ever worsening economic crash is to grow your own food.

If there ever was a time, it is now, including participating in local farmer's markets.

If your retirement fund has been depleted, or your earned income has not gone up like the food prices, or you have lost your job, there is hope in growing your own food.

Be clear, no matter what Washington or TV's talking heads are telling you about the collapsed economy rebounding, be assured it is likely to take several years.

While most American's are programmed for instant gratification with its' conspicuous consumption, a decision to hunker-down and grow food is what most rural West Virginians know how to do.

Appalachians have been long-suffering, even in good times, and have long-time skills and resources of using the land. Furthermore, they know how to use a community to survive.

Millions of US citizens do not have such skills or opportunity.

Growing one's own food is a beacon of hope for people in rural West Virginia.

FOOD PRICES WILL BE GOING UP

A group of food-industry economists said last week, food prices will rise by at least 7 percent in 2009 because of higher feed costs for chickens, hogs and cattle. The increases will likely be higher than government figures.

2009 will be the third year that food prices rise faster than the overall U.S. inflation rate. Food inflation is the highest since 1990.

"The sizable increase in the cost of producing food has not been fully passed on to the consumer," said private consultant Bill Lapp.

Wholesale prices for items used by food makers have climbed more rapidly than grocery and restaurant prices, so higher consumer prices are in store, said Lapp.

Although grain prices have declined since summer, this year's corn, wheat and soybean crops are forecast to fetch prices at the farm gate that are double their 2005 levels.

Corn and soybeans are major ingredients in feed rations.

MEAT PRICES WILL GO UP

Thomas Elam, head of Farm Econ, said poultry, hog and cattle producers will likely cut production in coming months because of feed costs, meaning less meat on the retail market but at higher prices.

The Bush administration's ethanol plan to supplement gasoline, using corn, may be one of the biggest mistakes his administration made. It is drastically affecting food costs while helping little with gasoline prices.

Menu prices at restaurants have gone up five percent, the largest increase since 1990, said Hudson Riehle of the National Restaurant Association.

Americans spend more than $1 trillion a year on groceries, snacks, carry-out foods and restaurant meals. Farmers get 20 cents of the food dollar.

The rest goes to processing, labor, transportation and distribution.

THE CORN TO ETHANOL ISSUE

The nation's new energy policy means that corn is likely to rule the U.S. ethanol industry for years, but soaring food prices and questions about whether corn-for-fuel can reduce global warming or keep the price of gasoline down is debatable.

Venture capitalists, oil and ethanol companies and the Department of Energy have pumped billions of dollars into efforts to make ethanol from cellulose, a material found in all plants, in a quest to find an alternative fuel that has less impact on food supplies and on the environment.

So far, its commercial prospects are years off.

Many experts believe the nation is likely betting on the wrong horse with corn ethanol.

Corn farmers are happy.

Critics have complained that the growing U.S. use of corn for fuel is driving up food prices worldwide. Corn, mostly for livestock feed, supplies more than 65 percent of world exports.

The U.S. ethanol industry expects to produce 8.5 billion gallons this year, almost all of it from corn. The U.S. uses less than 150 billion gallons of gasoline per year. Replacing it would require more than 200 billion gallons of ethanol, because ethanol provides less energy per gallon.

Ethanol is blended now in 60 percent of the country's gasoline, mostly in a mix of 10 percent ethanol to 90 percent gasoline.


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