Tuesday Roundup: Food Speculation

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Economists from around the world are calling on the industrialized nations to limit speculative positions in food commodities as a way to curb volatility in prices for crops, Alan Bjerga reports for Bloomberg. 

“With around 1 billion people enduring chronic hunger worldwide, action is urgently needed to curb excessive speculation and its effects on global food prices,” according to a letter signed by 461 economists and sent to finance ministers from the G-20, which includes the world’s richest nations. 

Global food prices have increased 16 percent in the last year, according to the United Nations. Increasing prices for food have pushed 44 million people into “extreme poverty” in just half a year.

“For those who say no evidence exists linking excessive speculation and prices, they just aren’t looking,” Commodity Futures Trading Commission Commissioner Bart Chilton said today in a statement. “Scores of studies and papers exist which document the linkage.”

• The Washington Post editorial page says that those who oppose the oil pipeline between Alberta, Canada, and the U.S. Gulf Coast “have the wrong target.” 

Those who oppose the Keystone XL pipeline says a rupture in the line could harm water that supplies a good deal of the Great Plains. And they argue that using oil sands oil will only hasten global climate change.

The Post says these arguments don’t carry much weight. The oil is going to be extracted from the sands and it is going to be transported to world markets — if not through the Keystone pipeline, then through some other pipeline. The Post writes:

Producing energy is a dirty business, and it will remain so for a long time, even with the right policies. Part of facing this reality is admitting that how the world produces energy must change over time. But another part is accepting that oil production will continue for decades and clear-headedly managing the risks — not pretending we can wish them away.

• It may not be in Revelations, but it is surely a sign of the End Times: There are now more mobile phones in the U.S. (327.6 million) than there are people (315 million). Wireless traffic increased 111 percent in the first six months of this year. 

• At least one firm that has been involved in the run-up in farmland prices is selling, according to DTN’s Elizabeth Williams

“I used to trade commodities in Chicago and the time to sell is when everyone else thinks prices can’t go down,” Scott Oakes, owner of Harvest Capital, and investment firm with offices in Illinois and Iowa, told Williams. “We’ve recently sold some Iowa land that has appreciated beyond what we thought it would, and we’ve sold all our farmland in Oklahoma and Arkansas that we bought four years ago.”

• Individual communities are wondering what will happen if the Secure Rural Schools Act, which expired at the end of September, is not revived.

The law provides money for communities that have had declining timbering on public lands. 

See this story in the Flathead Beacon and a commentary from Lane County, Oregon.   

• If Congress cuts funding for National Public Radio, it would have relatively little effect on…National Public Radio, according to a story in Politico

Most federal funding for public radio is pushed out to local stations, and that’s where funding cuts would be felt the most. A City University of New York professor believes that smaller and poorer stations are doomed. 

“Some stations have tremendous local value,” said Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor. “But most of the stations are there primarily for their broadcast tower and their value is distribution for national programming. And that’s going to decline markedly, and their lot in life is going to get harder and harder, and their dependence on federal funding gets greater.” 

• Yes, the parliamentary maneuver used to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that is driving everyone in D.C. to distraction started in farm country, Politico reports

Farm states are worried that the Environmental Protection Agency is going to implement regulations limiting farm dust. Those regulations don’t exist, but that hasn’t stopped Republicans from filing amendments to block them.

Politico explains how the dust-up over the dust regulations (the one that doesn’t exist) comes as the President is trying to make nice with rural voters.

 

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