A Primary Food Primer
Why are world food prices so high? How is this connected with illegal immigration? Why do we have a $91 billion Farm Bill? How are these related?
In an effort to understand these complex issues, I wrote a primer outlining these cause and effect relationships. Many thanks to Walden Bello, executive director of the Focus on the Global South organization in Bangkok, for his article in The Nation and his emails.
American farmers grow corn. The U.S. government gives them money to grow more corn. More corn means cheaper corn. Cheaper corn goes to Mexico and Central America. Mexican and Central American farmers can’t grow corn as cheap as the American farmers. Mexican and Central American farmers are out of work. And they all come to America.
American farmers grow corn. The American government gives them money to grow more corn. More corn means cheaper corn. Cheaper corn is sold to companies that make ethanol. Corn becomes more expensive in Mexico and Central America. People can’t afford corn. And they all come to America.
American farmers grow corn. The U.S. government gives them money to grow more corn. More corn means cheaper corn. Chickens eat corn. More corn means cheaper chickens. Chickens are imported into the Philippines. Cheaper chickens and cheaper corn means local farmers go out of business.
American farmers grow corn. The U.S. government gives them money to grow more corn. More corn means cheaper corn. The American World Bank lends money to countries. Like a credit card company, they want this debt paid back. The government pays back the debt by not spending on fertilizer, roads and seeds for the farmers. The farms are in ruins. American farmers sell their corn to make ethanol. Now corn and chickens are too expensive. And they all come to America.
American farmers grow rice. The U.S. government gives them money to grow more rice.
Rice becomes cheaper. Corporations buy and hold the rice. The rice becomes expensive. Corporations sell the rice at a much higher price. And they all come to America.
“The World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund) structural adjustment programs cut back on government spending for agriculture, which meant no fertilizers and lower production and low profits, which means rice farmers went out of business. With fewer farmers raising rice, local rice production went down, which meant the country had to import rice and became more and more dependent on imports.” Walden Bello in an e-mail to me.
I do not wish to imply that American farmers have anything to do with this. They are a very hard-working group which suffers with weather conditions and other maladies that can make or break their finances.
I also do not mean to suggest that the American government should quit subsidizing American farmers. Because of them, we eat cheaper than any other country in the world. And because of them, we may find another alternative to fossil fuels.
However, farmers in Third World countries should and must return to farming. As more and more corn is diverted to ethanol, our policy must shift to helping world farmers shift back to self reliance.
The era of cheap food from the USA is over and all of us must assist Third World countries in rebuilding their agricultural infrastructure to pre-cheap corn levels.