Farmers and food executives appealed fruitlessly to federal officials yesterday for regulatory steps to limit speculative buying that is helping to drive food prices higher. Meanwhile, some Americans are stocking up on staples such as rice, flour and oil in anticipation of high prices and shortages spreading from overseas.
Their pleas did not find a sympathetic audience at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), where regulators said high prices are mostly the result of soaring world demand for grains combined with high fuel prices and drought-induced shortages in many countries.
While farmers here and abroad generally are benefiting from the high prices, even they have been burned by a tidal wave of investors and speculators pouring into the futures markets for corn, wheat, rice and other commodities and who are driving up prices in a way that makes it difficult for farmers to run their businesses.
“Something is wrong,” said National Farmers Union President Tom Buis, adding that the CFTC’s refusal to rein in speculators will force farmers and consumers to take their case to Congress.
It could get far worse. Another “hidden issue” is the scarcity of land still available for farming, he said. In the past, the United States had plenty of farmland to provide more crops as food demands grew. But land is finite, and after all these years, we’re beginning to run short, Doering said. “For the first time in our history, we’re pushing up against the edge in terms of quality land,” Doering said. “We’re in a somewhat fixed box.”