Tuesday, March 11, 2008

America's Bakers March on Washington

By Alan Caruba

On March 12, the American Baking Association, representing 85% of the total baking industry, will lead a “Band of Bakers March on Washington.” Representatives from more than 50% of the nation’s largest baking companies will call on Congress to correct the policies it has created over the years that have led to soaring food and oil prices.

Not since the days of the Depression when World War I veterans marched on Washington to get their overdue benefits have we seen such an event. At stake is the ability of all Americans to afford to put food on the table.

Everyone knows that food prices have increased along with oil prices, but few people know that it is government policies that have brought the nation to a point where we are facing a wheat shortage.

Despite record-breaking wheat prices, the devaluation of the U.S. dollar has made the import of wheat extremely attractive to foreign nations. Wheat exports are up more than 60% over last year. The result is creating a very tight supply situation at home and that, in turn, is driving up the cost of flour and wheat to American consumers.

The owner of a local pizzeria recently lamented to me about the cost of this staple of American fast food. From the flour to make the crust to the cost of the cheese, prices are requiring him to charge more and more. Now multiply his problem by every food product producer that uses wheat, starting with bread.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the price of a bushel of wheat went from $4.71 in February 2007 to $10.40 this year. That’s a 220% increase. Your pasta dishes will cost more too. Made from durum wheat, prices went from $5.16 per bushel to $16.40 by February 2008, a 317% increase. The nation’s supply of rye is exhausted and bakers are importing it from Germany and the Netherlands.

Around the world, global demand for wheat is outpacing global production. The bakers will demand a policy that balances domestic supplies of wheat with export demands. They will call for a “rethink” of ethanol policies involving corn because wheat farmers, seeing the price of corn rise, are tempted to plant corn, rather than wheat.

Ethanol is the single greatest scam perpetrated on Americans in modern memory. It literally burns food to provide a gasoline additive that drives up the cost of a gallon while reducing its mileage. The consumer is robbed in two ways at the pump. The energy bill recently passed by Congress increased the amount of ethanol to be used.

The bakers want the USDA to take some acres out of the Conservation Reserve Program, one that pays farmers to leave idle some 35 million acres at a time when they are needed for the production of wheat to meet domestic needs.

When it comes to food and oil prices, Americans are looking at a perfect storm created by those in Congress who keep telling us that global warming is the threat, when the real threat is the bankrupting of American consumers with policies totally unconnected to real science.

We have arrived at this point thanks to the alarmism of the environmental movement, led by people like Al Gore, and perpetrated in Congress by the global warming cabal that includes Pelosi, Reid, Boxer, Lieberman, Warner, and even McCain.

The likelihood is that the nation’s bakers are going to be joined by many more marchers in the weeks and months to come if this economic horror story is not put right.

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