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What's that got to do with the price of free range beef in Philly? - Input Junkie
October 10th, 2012
11:17 am


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What's that got to do with the price of free range beef in Philly?
So I go to the farmer who'd got really good beef at phenomenal prices ($7/pound for most roasts), and practically nothing is below $9/pound.

I ask politely, and he says that the subsidies for grain are what's doing it. Even though he doesn't feed grain to his animals, they've driven up the price of land so much that it's affecting him. I'm not sure how, maybe by way of what he has to pay for loans.

I want those subsidies gone. They might have felt reasonable after the depression, when the big deal was making sure people got enough calories. However, it's turned into a monster, and I expect the same thing would happen if there were subsidies for fruits and veggies, "organic" food, free range meat, and/or locally grown food.

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(9 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
Uh, you may not want to do that this particular year. With the drought and all, the prices of corn, rice, beef and pork are going to spike soon anyway. And this may be one of the few periods of history when farmers might actually need that subsidy to stay in business.

Remember all the hassles of the Dust Bowl? and The Great Depression? They're BAAAACK!
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 04:16 pm (UTC)
If bradhicks is right, then the Dust Bowl was another big government project which seemed like a good idea at the time. They wanted a solution to urban poverty, so they moved a lot of people onto farms. People who didn't know anything about farming.
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 04:50 pm (UTC)


No. That's right up there with faked moon landings and World Trade Center conspiracies.
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 05:29 pm (UTC)

A Couple of Things

1. The prices of beef is going up for a bunch of reasons. One is that the drought seriously impacted grazing land and the price of feed. A lot of farmers doubled their kill in the early part of the season to cut down on cost and avoid starving their cattle. This temporarily drove the price of meat down, but is now leading to a shortage (as we reach the reduced population ready for slaughter) and thus a price spike.

2. Add ethanol subsidies to the problem. As corn crops died, a fair chunk of the remainder was diverted to ethanol production. Subsidy of ethanol means that ethanol producers can pay more than can cattle ranchers.

3. It was not so much a conspiracy to move folks from urban to rural as what was viewed as sound policy. The Homestead Act made it ridiculously easy to claim land. The Railroad created the means to move crops and cattle from the High Plains to urban markets. Technology enhanced the ability to plough. Rising population density made food more profitable. Add to that an utter failure of policy to encourage conservation. The native grasses that held down the soil were eliminated in favor of cash crops.

The result was the ecological disaster known as the Dust Bowl. When the drought hit, the soil dried and winds created massive dust storms. Even when the drought ended, the land was no longer capable of retaining the water to prevent dust storms during the high-wind period. Not until the Federal government undertook a massive program of soil conservation did the situation become manageable.

4. I also would like to see the end of ag subsidies.
Date:October 10th, 2012 05:39 pm (UTC)

Re: A Couple of Things

I'm not sure this particular person would have raised his prices so much if he hadn't felt pushed-- that was certainly the impression I got talking to him.

His prices were stably lowish for years, so the current increase isn't just a contrast with prices as a result of the drought.

What's your line of thought for wanting to end ag subsidies?
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 05:57 pm (UTC)

Re: A Couple of Things

I agree its not just a contrast. We have a beef shortage. Cattle are raised in a cycle, and it generally takes beef cattle several years to reach the point where they get slaughtered (aside from those marked for veal). To save money on feed and keep the cattle plump enough for sale, ranchers eliminated a significant portion of the supply that should be available now. It's not here to meet demand, so meat goes up -- in absolute terms not just relative to the lower price previously.

I want to see ag subsidies eliminated because they largely go to industrial farms, are not needs tested, and encourage bad policyn of farming where not needed. On top of that, our ag subsidies have been found on several occasions to violate our obligations under the WTO and are a source of friction between us and developing nations trying to compete in the global market. Our subsidies are a "non-tariff barrier to trade" because they allow our growers to dump agricultural goods in the world market. We get rather annoyed about this when China does it with steel. Brazil gets annoyed when we do it with cotton, and Ukraine gets pissed when we do it with wheat.
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2012 08:18 pm (UTC)
Blame Al Gore.

So far, everything he's publicly done or said, for whatever claimed motive, has made money for the corn lobby.

And made things worse.

Global Warming! Replace oil with ethanol from corn! (But it takes more fuel to grow the corn than you can get out of it, and that fuel is oil.)

Sugar is evil! Tax it heavily, so soda makers use corn sweetener instead. (But that suppresses the brain's ability to shut off the appetite, so people who were fine start eating compulsively, and since the 80s obesity has become an epidemic.)

Meanwhile Al Gore heats his house 24/7 and eats for free when people invite him to tell scary stories.
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2012 04:14 am (UTC)
I'd divide subsidy recipients into these categories:

1. established large industries that don't need them and may make a bad (speculative) use of them

2. new industries that need help getting established (green energy, etc)

3. pioneers of research in worthwhile areas (green energy, etc)

Unfortunately, Category 1 can get and keep the most subsidies.
Date:October 11th, 2012 07:29 am (UTC)
Pretty much every country wants to be self sufficient in food. It doesn't always happen, of course, but I can't think of a single country in the world that doesn't support its own agri-business against the others. And yes, it does tick off the Third World that we expect to sell them our products but restrict imports of their produce.
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