Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Wall St. Journal and the price of tea in China

OK, I read this great article in the Wall St. Journal today over coffee.  It was on the front page, which should tell all you non-farm  people that farm issues are definitely going to be affecting us all, farm or no farm.

Here are a few statistics:  The proposed farm bill for 2008 will offer $13 billion in federal subsidies.  These subsidies will go to 1% of the population of the US, industrial farmers, some making wages of an average of $70,000 plus a year.  Some have an annual adjusted gross income of    2.5 million dollars a year.  These subsidies will be broken down as this:  

corn-over $10billion
wheat-over $5 billion
cotton/soybean-each over $2 1/2 billion
rice-over $2 billion
sorghum/barley/peanuts-each over a $billion

The farm subsidies came into being back in the depression, when over 25% of our population was agricultural.  They have helped many farmers be able to survive the many ups and downs in the market, the droughts, floods, heavy equipment expenses that hit farmers very hard.  Well and good.

Many lawmakers are trying to bring some reform to the farm bill.  $13 billion dollars is a pretty big chunk of cash for tax payers.  One of the reforms brought before congress was something designed to lower the subsidy level to farmers who had $1 million annual adjustable gross income.  Someone else tried to reduce it to $500,ooo or $250,000 annual adjustable gross income.  The industrial farm monster lobby is a very strong lobby.  All the potential reforms were ditched.  

Why do little farms like Full Circle Farm care about front page articles on the Wall St. Journal about industrial farms and subsidies?

Why should you care?

These subsidies allow farmers to sell their products for unreasonably low prices.  They allow you, the consumer, to go to Wal Mart or HEB or Kroger or Sam's and buy chicken for 69 cents a pound.  Eggs for $1.29 a dozen.  Milk for $4.25 a gallon.  These are not true prices.  They do not reflect the value of the product.  It takes more than $4.25 to raise a chick, feed it, water it, kill it, butcher it, package it, and drive it to the supermarket, and put a label on it, and put it on the shelf, and scan it, and put it in a grocery sack for you to drive home.  These prices make it hard for you, the average consumer to think of paying more money to a local farmer because we all want to be wise and frugal and spend our hard earned money carefully, and it seems like the $4.25 chicken is a lot cheaper than the $12.25 chicken.  

Milk doesn't cost $4.25 a gallon.  These subsidies hurt small farmers.  They hurt the rest of us who ignorantly shop at Sam's and whatever other discount grocery supermarket offers the cheapest prices, because we don't realize we ARE paying for these groceries every time we pay our taxes.  These cheap prices encourage optimum production at whatever cost.  More chickens, more milk, more spinach, more eggs, more whatever.  Cheaper, faster, means more chemicals, more antibiotics, more irradiation.  What a bargain...

I know this info is a bit off what landuvmilknhoney usually covers!  But it is pertinent and affects us all, and I did happen to notice that while this info was front page of the Wall St. Journal, none of it was mentioned in our local newspaper.  Hmmmm.

Here are a few more statistics that I found interesting (and these are for the industry):

Comparing prices on commodities market 2007 and 2008

Coffee-up 25%
Eggs-up somewhere over 50%
Flour-up over 50%
Wheat-price went from $5.5 to $14.43  you do the math!
Corn-$3.58 to$5.17

Everyone knows what gas prices are doing these days.

Soooo, here in the land of milk and honey, we try to be aware of our surroundings.  For example, a few minutes ago, I went out onto the deck, sans coat, and sat for a bit, looking at the stars, listening to the wonderful springtime night sounds of the bugs and frogs.  Wonderful.  We didn't have those sounds not too long ago, and if I had been inside watching the TV, I never would have known.  

We also try to pay attention to the world around us, because it really does make a difference what the price of tea in China is today.  I don't know what I can do to change some of these circumstances, like the ethanol craze, or the war in Iraq, or drought in Georgia.  BUT, I can refuse to buy cheap things that aren't really cheap.  I might even get around to writing a letter to my representative and say that as a farmer, I think a few reforms might go a long way.  That we are not in the Great Depression, and that 25% of the population is not going under.  I may have to pray and ask God what is the way we, as a family, here in our little corner of Virginia, should live to be good stewards of all that we have been given.

There are many facets to the arguments regarding this huge dilemma facing our nation in the realm of agriculture and food.  I don't presume to have any answers.  But I think that we HAVE to start thinking about it.  We have to pay attention to what is going on around us, and ask God, "What should I do?"  

Some kid not too far from you might be selling eggs for $3.25 a dozen.  (Not Patrick, he already has too many customers!)  That locally produced cheese might be twice the price of the on sale stuff at Wal Mart.  How about eating 1/2 the cheese you might ordinarily consume?  

OK, I think I am starting to preach, so I will go to bed!  And dream of our wonderful family, and animals and garden, and milk and eggs and friends who love us and pay fair prices for our yummy goodies.  

May we all be truly wise stewards of what we have been given.

1 comment:

hollywould said...

yes!!! go, ginger!!! i can't wait to visit the farm again and enjoy your delicious healthy guilt free eggs and milk and chicken! yum!