How to Cultivate a Food Crisis
by Robert James Bidinotto
Buried beneath the avalanche of press coverage about the lame-duck Congress, I found a story about President Obama’s mid-December meeting with twenty corporate CEOs. The purpose of this Blair House get-together was to discuss how to jump-start our still-ailing economy. Among other aims, Mr. Obama reiterated his goals to increase employment, end the recession, and double U.S. exports over the next five years.
These are lofty and laudable ambitions. But it seems that Mr. Obama’s regulatory bureaucrats haven’t gotten the memo. For example, consider the counter-productive impact of their efforts on agriculture.
As any shopper knows, food prices this past year have been rising faster than the overall rate of inflation. “Fears of a global food crisis swept the world’s commodity markets as prices for staples such as corn, rice and wheat spiraled after the U.S. government warned of ‘dramatically’ lower supplies,” the Financial Times reported in early October. “There is growing concern among countries about continuing volatility and uncertainty in food markets,” said World Bank president Robert Zoellick later that month. “These concerns have been compounded by recent increases in grain prices.”
Confronting this looming food-supply crisis is the American farmer. His productivity is such that the United States is the world’s largest agricultural exporter, with $108.7 billion in farm products shipped abroad in 2010. Helping him increase the supply of agricultural products is the key to addressing both rising food prices and global shortages. His productivity is also critical to our country’s broader economic recovery.
So, you would think that the administration’s apparatchiks would be doing whatever they can to remove the regulatory impediments that farmers face. But you would be wrong. Consider several ways in which federal regulators are threatening agricultural productivity, both directly and indirectly.
Inflating Energy Costs. The White House and its allies in Congress have declared open warfare on carbon-based energy sources, such as oil, coal, and natural gas. After an abortive effort to ram a “cap and trade” carbon-tax measure through Congress, the administration now seeks to impose the same anti-energy regimen via edicts by the Environmental Protection Agency.