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The Vulnerability of Our Food System

Steel grain silos in Ralls, Texas

It was reported yesterday by the United Nations that worldwide food prices once again increased to a record level.  An index of 55 food commodities rose 2.2% in February and since 2000 has increased 130.1% in real terms.  Pundits of the Middle East and North African country social uprisings suggest some of the fuel for unrest came from rising food prices and the financial toll this is having on households.  Recall in 2007 and the early part of 2008 the dramatic increases in world food prices that created great social unrest in the low-income, food deficit countries.  Food riots were reported across Haiti, Bangladesh, Egypt and many other regions of the world.

Today in America we greatly take for granted our industrial food system and as consumers assume we will always have enough food at reasonable prices.  This  sense of security has been instilled in us for decades because of the long term price stability and abundant availability of food sources.  American food policies and resulting agricultural subsidies have not changed since the Nixon administration when federal policies were enacted to promote maximum production of our basic commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice).  As a result, it was a long time ago when “beans were in the teens.”

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