According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index, international food prices are the highest they’ve been since September of 2011. Vegetable oil, grain, and sugar prices were sharply higher due to a reviving global economy and concerns that yields may be smaller than expected. Dairy and meat prices, the other two components of the index, were firm. Analysts point out that global grain and soybean inventories could be tight if there’s a major production shortfall due to drought in key growing regions including the western U,S. and Brazil and slowing vegetable oil production in Southeast Asia. Other factors that may cause higher prices include rising grain prices for livestock producers, soaring Chinese demand and global inflation.
Last week, the Kansas City Federal Reserve reported that the District’s farm economy remained strong, but drought continued to strain all types of producers in the western part of the region. The district includes all of Colorado, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and the northern third of New Mexico Prices for corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, and hogs increased in recent weeks and remained at multiyear highs through the early part of May. In contrast, prospects for the cattle industry remained subdued since cattle prices were near pre-pandemic levels but profit opportunities were limited due to elevated feed costs. Alongside severe drought in the western portion of the District, the wheat crop was in poorer condition in Colorado relative to other states, and the impact of drought on pasture quality and hay production continued to worsen.
Ben Meyer, from Wisconsin’s WXPR public radio recently reported that Wisconsin has lost a third of it’s dairy farms during the last seven years. On average, the state has lost a farm a day, due to the challenges of maintaining a workforce, fluctuating milk prices and financial stress, but the state is producing more milk than ever before. Wisconsin’s governor is mulling relief for dairy producers.
Methane emissions from North American livestock production is often cited as a significant contributor to climate change, but a recent study by researchers at New York University and Johns Hopkins University reported that methane emissions from the production of livestock in confined environments is being under counted, rather than being reduced by confinement operations. Over the past few decades, North American meat and dairy producers have touted improvements in their efficiency, and claim that concentrated feeds and confinement have significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions. But Matthew Hayek, assistant professor in New York University’s Environmental Studies Department contends that their findings throw those claims into doubt. Although individual cows may be belching and emitting less, that doesn’t necessarily translate to entire herds and warehouses of confined animals, and their stockpiles of manure, emitting less. “This research indicates a need to reexamine or improve reporting methods for methane, which are critical to tracking progress over time,” Hayek says. Other countries may have cause for concern in the future, too, because the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization previously predicted that East and Southeast Asia’s animal emissions will peak around 2030 because U.S.-style technological efficiency in Asia could reduce emissions. But if the study’s data is correct, emissions may continue rise, rather than peak.
Mark Twain said, “As I slowly grow wise, I briskly grow cautious.