Lawmaker Worried About Summer Food Fight
May 1, 2008
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - He's not predicting the weather, but House Minority Leader John Boehner on Thursday voiced worry about the potential for a food fight should drought disrupt the U.S. supply of corn this summer.
"If we get into a drought of any sort in the Midwest we are going to have real fight over who gets the grain, who gets the corn, whether its the cereal producers, the ethanol producers or frankly the livestock producers," the Ohio Republican said at a news conference.
Shrinking world grain stockpiles, coupled with higher U.S. demand for corn to produce ethanol to help fuel cars in the face of record gasoline prices, have strained global food supplies.
Boehner said U.S. ethanol demand was only a small part of the global rise in food prices that has sparked riots in some countries. Population growth and more people in rising economies demanding meat from grain-fed animals are major factors in the tightening supplies of corn, wheat and other grains.
Improving economies in China and India are increasing demand for a higher quality food, Boehner said.
U.S. Midwest farmers are not worried about drought just yet. Heavy rains and late snowstorms have delayed corn planting. At the start of this week, 10 percent of the corn crop was planted, compared with the average of 35 percent for this time of year, according to government figures.
U.S. farmers are getting record prices for corn, wheat and soybeans. Average prices have doubled since 2005 to around $10.25 a bushel for soybeans, $4.25 for corn and $6.65 for wheat.
The U.S. Midwest has enjoyed nearly 20 years without a major drought but forecasters worry the corn belt's luck could dry up this year, further squeezing tight global supplies amid soaring food prices.
With its last major drought in 1988, the Midwest has reached its average span of 18.6 years between droughts.
Considering that statistic and current weather conditions, Iowa State University extension climatologist Elwynn Taylor said the corn belt has a one in three chance of drought this year.
(Reporting by Donna Smith and Charles Abbott; Editing by Marguerita Choy)