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A Crisis Coming for American Farmers?

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Famine. Riots. Strikes. Inflation. The repercussions of the world food crisis continue to affect the global mood and economy, and unfortunately the situation does not appear to be getting any better. American farmers, most of whom rely on the core crops of wheat, corn, and soy to bring in a living, are fearful of another poor harvest this year. From the NY Times:

United States soybean plantings are running 16 percent behind last year. Rice is tardy in Arkansas, which produces nearly half the country’s crop. “We’re certainly not going to have as good a crop as we had hoped,” said Harvey Howington of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association. “I don’t think this is good news for anybody.” Harvests ebb and flow, of course. But with supplies of most of the key commodities at their lowest levels in decades, there is little room for error this year. American farmers are among the world’s top producers, supplying 60 percent of the corn that moves across international borders in a typical year, as well as a third of the soybeans, a quarter of the wheat and a tenth of the rice.

Heavy rains in the Midwest have pushed prices for these commodities sky-high this season; add skyrocketing prices for fossil fuels on top of that, and you have a recipe for disaster. Even if a big harvest does come through, however, it may do little in the long-term -- in a global economy where half of consumers are overstuffed, and the other half are starved, it will take a major restructuring of the current food supply system to solve these problems. It's up to the individual consumer to make the right choices about where their food comes from and who is reaping the benefits of cultivation.