Monday, February 25, 2013

A terrible backlog of pieces to link to. Here is something I wrote last week about the incredible boom in crop and farmland prices in the Midwest. Its amazing when I write these pieces I'm frustrated by the miniscule amount of space that I've been given to make an account of a complex story. Then when I sit down in front of this blog, with an infinite amount of space, my mind is like a blank sheet of paper.


Fields of gold 

Farmers bask in soaring prices 

Feb 23rd 2013 | CHICAGO |From the print edition

ON THE basis of headlines alone, you might be forgiven for thinking that last year’s record-breaking drought had devastated American agriculture. Across the Midwest (and farther afield) more than 1,000 counties in 26 states were declared natural-disaster areas—the largest such ruling that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has ever made. Yet despite withered crops, sun-baked soil and damage from wildfires, some think that farming is in the midst of another golden age, thanks to booming commodity markets and record prices for farmland.

In recent years strong global demand for food and biofuels has been pushing crop prices higher. The drought has helped, not hindered, profits. For farmers able to produce corn (maize), it raised prices dramatically. The average price of corn was about 20% higher last year than in 2010, and reached $8.49 a bushel (25kg) in August. For everyone else crop-insurance payments have stepped in, reaching a record $14.2 billion in payments in mid-February, a figure that is expected to go on growing a bit as insurers finalise the claims. This year, according to a report from the USDA on February 11th, farm profits may rise by 14% to $128 billion, the highest in real terms since 1973. [More...]