The short answer is, on a boat to China. That’s also the long answer.
After an entire adulthood of paying somewhere between 59 cents and $1.89 a pound for hamburger, I suddenly find myself saying, ‘Oh, only $3.69 a pound – well, that’s not too bad.’
The cost of food has risen so fast in the US that it is very hard to keep up. Foods that were cheap in my childhood are now luxury items – fish, cheese. bacon, pickles, jam. The only thing my mother resorted to occasionally that I can still afford is liver. But she was able to smother it with so much bacon we hardly knew what we were eating. I have to resort to onions.
So here are three important things to remember as we face a future of rice and beans: First, do not for a moment think that ‘agri-business’ is more about the first part than the second. Profits before people.
Second, agricultural exports go a long way toward redressing our perennial trade imbalance.The USDA pulls no punches: ‘This surplus helps counter the persistent deficit in nonagricultural U.S. merchandise trade…’
In other words, we don’t make anything anyone wants to buy anymore, except food.
Third, if there is a fairly finite amount of wealth in the world, then the rise of Asian middle classes – most notably China’s – parallels the decline of our own.
The most recent numbers from the USDA are for 2009, which is sad, but you can see that the trends in ag exports portend higher and higher prices. We are close to a full quarter of our food being shipped out.
The US Meat Export Federation has more recent data and is happy to report that even though volume was slightly down in 2012, profits were higher. Here are some numbers for that year:
Well, at least farmers aren’t pouring milk on the ground or burning oranges like they once did to protest low prices and their inability to make a living wage.
That’s because there aren’t any farmers these days. Just corporations that go to Congress and get things fixed when they aren’t happy.
So I guess I better pull out the geraniums and put in tomatoes this year. If only I had room for a cow…