Up, up, and away: corn edition

Corn hits a new record — $6 a bushel

At the end of February, I blogged on a Fortune article that had the subhead "The ethanol boom is running out of gas as corn prices spike." That article noted: Spurred by an ethanol plant construction binge, corn prices have gone stratospheric, soaring from below $2 a bushel in 2006 to over $5.25 a bushel today. As a result, it's become difficult for ethanol plants to make a healthy profit, even with oil at $100 a barrel. Just six weeks later, we have an AP article with the subhead "Corn Prices Jump to Record $6 a Bushel, Driving Up Costs for Food, Alternative Energy." And it gets better worse:

Why Michael Pollan and Alice Waters should quit celebrating food-price hikes

As their grocery bills rise, Americans should take comfort: the price they’re paying for industrially produced food in the supermarket is starting to approach that of artisanally produced food at the farmers’ market. And that …

Who owns your tomato?

Another big horticultural seed company bought by Monsanto

When Monsanto buys into a market, they buy in big. In 2005, Monsanto's seed/genetic trait holdings were primarily in corn, cotton, soybeans, and canola. That year, they purchased Seminis, the world's largest vegetable seed company (see And We Have the Seed) specializing in seed for vegetable field crops. Now their takeover of the vegetable seed sector continues, as they have announced the intent to purchase the Dutch breeding and seed company, De Ruiter Seeds.

Against the grain: What are they thinking? Part 2

Time bashes grain ethanol

This post is by ClimateProgress guest blogger Bill Becker, executive director of the Presidential Climate Action Project. ----- All that glitters is not gold. And all that grows is not green. That is the belated realization about grain ethanol -- in fact, about any ethanol whose feedstock is grown on cropland. Joe Romm has done a good job posting on this issue, including his report on the recent studies featured in Science magazine. I'd like to weigh in with a few additional points.

The U.S. never had small government

Taxes and public investment: less intrusive than alternatives

Occasionally, as happened on one of my posts, someone will mention the early 20th century and before as a happy era when small government was the rule. These people are confusing low taxes with small government.

The Age of Asparagus dawned in Roman times, but the time to eat it is now

Asparagus may be associated with spring, but there’s nothing new about it. It’s been gracing tables — to the joy of some diners and the horror of others — for at least two thousand years. …

U-boat sightings

European biodiesel industry being bankrupted by loophole

They call them U-boats because they pull into a port just long enough to do a U-turn and head off to Europe. They stop just long enough to blend a touch of fuel into the tank so they can claim the government subsidy. Let's say you have a million gallons on board from, say, a palm oil plantation in Indonesia, or a soybean operation in South America. An hour or two after your arrival, your pockets are bulging with just short of a million U.S. taxpayer dollars. From the Guardian: ... the European Biodiesel Board, has uncovered the trade as part of its investigation into why British, German, and Spanish producers are in financial trouble at a time when biodiesel prices remain high. The board will call for retaliatory action against the U.S. over subsidies for its leading biofuel. ... "[P]eople are bringing boats of soy or palm-based biodiesel from Europe and then mixing it with a bit of local biodiesel -- or even fossil-fuel diesel -- and then shipping it back," [biofuel consultant Ian Waller] said. This is perfectly legal and has been going on for years now. Our politicians are apparently cool with it because it lines the pockets of their campaign fund supporters (primarily the ag lobby). Some U.S. biofuel company is getting a big return on investment every time it happens. The American public is cool with it because we are unwitting idiots.

Got food?

Farmworker Awareness Week is a chance to recognize the people whose labor means we can eat

This is Farmworker Awareness Week, a time to support the millions of farmworkers whose labor puts food on every American table, and who work and live in some of the worst environmental conditions in our nation. It's estimated that 2 to 3 million farmworkers plant, tend, and harvest American crops every year. Many farmworkers in the U.S. are migrants who move from place to place following the harvest. Where I live, in North Carolina, migrant farmworkers are the majority. The average annual income for a farmworker in the United States is about $11,000, or about $16,000 for a farmworking family (though pay on the East Coast is lower than the national average). Farmworkers live in overcrowded housing and very few receive health care or unemployment benefits. Here in North Carolina, about half of our farmworkers cannot afford enough food for themselves and their families.

Birds do it; bees do it

NYT op-ed: pesticides wiping out songbirds

When the little bluebird Who has never said a word Starts to sing Spring … It is nature, that is all, Simply telling us to fall in love. – Cole Porter, “Let’s Do It” The …

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