R.F.D. NEWS & VIEWS: Study: Food prices outpacing inflation

By Tim Alexander for Chronicle Media

Josh and Morgan Sneddon of Fox at the Fork Farm in Monee, Illinois share fresh tomato juice with State Sen. Patrick Joyce (center) during a farm tour this summer where they discussed the need for more local food infrastructure in Illinois to help them process and distribute their products. Morgan and Josh are now working with Alliance members across the state to draft and submit legislation for a Local Food Infrastructure Grant Program. Alliance Executive Director Liz Stelk (far left) and Alliance Senior Organizer Kathleen Mueller (far right) are also pictured.

This week’s farm and rural news roundup is led with a report on the Biden administration’s recent rejection of Mexico’s biotech corn compromise, and a study on how food prices have reversed course in the past two decades to outpace general inflation. For this and more, please read on …


Biden dismisses Mexico’s corn import compromise

BLOOMINGTON — The Illinois Corn Growers Association is joining the National Corn Growers Association in lauding the Biden administration for its official rejection of a recent proposed compromise from Mexico on biotech corn imports. At issue: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced in late 2020 that he would ban the importation of biotech corn into the country, beginning in early 2024. This would severely hamper the United States’ ability to trade with Mexico, as the majority of U.S. corn is biotech.

Biden’s rebuke was relayed during a meeting between Mexican officials and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Secretary of Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs, Alexis Taylor, and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative’s chief ag negotiator, Doug McKalip.

Compromises offered by Mexico “are not sufficient and Mexico’s proposed approach, which is not grounded in science, still threatens to disrupt billions of dollars in bilateral agricultural trade, cause serious economic harm to U.S. farmers and Mexican livestock producers, and stifle important innovations needed to help producers respond to pressing climate and food security challenges,” according to the USDA.

“This is a significant development and good news for corn growers,” said NCGA President Tom Haag. “Secretary Vilsack and USTR Ambassador Tai are making it crystal clear that they are going to make the Mexican government abide by what it agreed to under USMCA. These leaders understand that banning biotech corn would deliver a blow to American farmers and exacerbate current food insecurity in Mexico by drastically raising prices for corn, basic foods and other critical products derived from corn in the Mexican economy.” (ICGA news)


Study: Food prices outpacing inflation

URBANA — An interesting new report from the University of Illinois farmdoc team shows that prices for crops and animals increased less than average U.S. producer and consumer prices over the last half of the 20th century. However, these agricultural commodities have increased in price faster than average U.S. prices in the 21st century.

“The change coincides with a gap that emerged around 2000 due to consumption of field crops growing faster than yields in the U.S. and the World,” the report, Zulauf, C. and G. Schnitkey. “U.S. Price Inflation — Focus on Farm Prices.” concludes. “This consumption-yield gap, which is increasing, suggests that farm prices are unlikely to moderate US inflation into the future.”

Echoing the conclusion drawn in earlier farmdoc reports that examined the role of labor and producer prices, respectively, in current inflation; higher interest rates (i.e. Federal Reserve policy) is only part of the solution. “To reduce farm price inflation over time and thus its contribution to overall inflation, investment in yield and multiple cropping research is a key,” according to the authors.


GROWMARK acquires cover crop seed company

BLOOMINGTON — Bloomington-based agricultural supply co-op GROWMARK announced last week it had acquired Allied Seed, LLC, of Idaho, a leading supplier of cover crop seed with facilities in Nampa, Idaho, Albany, Oregon, and Worland, Wyoming. The processing plants are located in primary production areas for forage grass, legume, and turfgrass seed where the company contracts more than 25,000 acres of seed production, according to a GROWMARK news release.

“Allied Seed is a recognized leader in the production and distribution of high-quality forage, turf, and cover crop seeds and is a key supplier to the GROWMARK System,” said GROWMARK Vice President of Seed, Keith Lawson. “The acquisition of the remaining stake in Allied Seed supports our overall growth and supply strategies and positions us well to meet the increasing demand for cover crops as part of a comprehensive on-farm sustainability strategy.”

GROWMARK had been the current majority owner of Allied Seed before purchasing the remaining ownership held by GreenPoint Ag Holdings, LLC, headquartered in Decatur, Alabama. Terms of the acquisition were not made public.


Stewardship Alliance announces agenda

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Stewardship Alliance announced a “bold” policy agenda to support local food and regenerative agriculture as the 2023 legislative session gears up in Springfield. ISA’s 2023 State Policy Agenda was crafted to help Illinois farmers feed Illinois, increase farm-to-school opportunities, address racial equity in agriculture and build climate resilience, according to Molly Pickering, ISA deputy director.

“Our members are incredibly involved in the policy process from start to finish — they help review and draft legislation, speak with lawmakers, and plan winning campaigns,” said Pickering. “We help them navigate the legislative process and provide them with the tools and training they need to be effective leaders.”

Among the top legislative priorities is support for the proposed Local Food Infrastructure Grant Program , which creates a minimum $1 million state-funded matching grant program, administered by the Illinois Department of Agriculture, to help farmers and communities in purchasing equipment for processing, milling, refrigeration, trucking, food hubs, community kitchens and other infrastructure needed to scale up local food production and supply chains.

Other top priorities include support for the Partners for Nutrient Loss Reduction Act, funding for a statewide Farm-to-School coordinator, addressing racial equity in the food system and protecting funding for conservation in Illinois. (ISA news)


Illinois Farm Fact:

Cover crops were planted on an estimated 20 million acres in the U.S. in 2020, according to the University of Missouri Center for Regenerative Agriculture. This number is expected to increase to approximately 30 million acres by 2030 under a new U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation program. (GROWMARK)

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