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What is a Food Tremor?

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Touch the Soil News #635 A food tremor is something more than background noise. It casts a hint of what a food problem can grow into. For example, in nature tremors often foreshadow a volcanic eruption or earthquake.   Food Tremors Now Happening The global demand for vegetable cooking oil is so great it is driving rainforest demolition and people exploitation. Peoples of all nations are competing voraciously for the same pool of cooking oils (palm oil, soybean oil, canola oil and olive oil). This tremor can drive food inflation. Congested crop farming leaves little room for nature to mitigate disease. Wheat rust is a fungal disease that compromises wheat,…

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More Powerful Than Politicians

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Touch the Soil News #544 The global financial system and the world’s resource limitations – having evolved together over the last few centuries – represent a momentum that eclipses any world leader. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a division of the United Nations that keeps tab on the price of food. The variables that drive the price of food are weather, demand and the ability of the global financial world to deliver purchasing power to the masses. The FAO food price index was established using a base of 100 which represents the price of many different agricultural commodities as of the year 2004. In the aftermath of the…

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Food Shocks versus Oil Shocks

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Touch the Soil News #494 We are all familiar with oil-price shocks that send the cost of gasoline skyrocketing. When oil prices surge, economists create models of how everything we buy is impacted by the underlying cost of oil. Recently the Brookings Institute published an economic study on the effects of food price increases on the American economy. Authored by Jamien De Winne and Gert Peersman from Ghent University, the study found that a 5 percent jump in food commodity prices leads to higher inflation and slower economic growth equivalent to a 10 percent oil-price increase. Price increases in food have twice the negative impact on the economy as price…

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Low-Price Food Tremor

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Touch the Soil News #465 Wheat farmers in America rise and fall on the USDA’s reports of production. If the USDA reports production is up, speculators say there is an oversupply and farm prices often collapse. The USDA’s August 2016 World Supply Report reveals that the world will produce 743 million metric tonnes of wheat this season. This is 4 percent more than what was produced in the 2013 season. Since 2013, wheat prices and profitability of wheat farming have plummeted. The seal of the USDA. Unfortunately, the production estimates of the USDA often are the basis for speculation that can artificially drive prices down (hurting farmers) or drive prices…

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Food Tremor – A Spooky Thing

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Touch the Soil News #441 The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a division of the United Nations. The FAO sits on the pulse of world food. The FAO maintains a Food Price Index. The Index follows the fluctuations in food prices. The flow of food to people only happens to the extent that there is money to facilitate the connection of supply and demand. The FAO Food Price index is the first warning signal that in a world organized around monetary mediums – price escalations can quickly overwhelm global resources (distribution and acquisition). The efficiency of money to connect supply with demand falls far short. Hence, over the past…

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Organics Up, While Overall Food Spending is Colossal

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Touch the Soil News #397 Just in, the Organic Trade Association reported that sales of organic foods in 2015 were up a whopping 11 percent over 2014. Organic food sales of $43.3 billion in 2015 represents about five (5) percent of the food sold in the U.S. Since 2006, when organic sales were approximately $17 billion, the sales in 2015 represent a 250 percent increase over the past 10 years. The Organic Trade Associations reports that supply channels for organics continue to be constrained, particularly in grains and dairy products. Over the past few years, a number of major retailers have gotten involved in producing organic food themselves, often by…

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Russia to the World – We’re Curtailing Food Imports and Raising Our Own

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Touch the Soil News #368 Amid Western economic sanctions against Russia – for its intervention into the Ukraine – Russia decided to fight back economically to the Western World. One of Russia’s actions included the stopping of food imports from Europe and other Western nations. At stake are historical Russian purchases (imports) of foreign food to the tune of almost $44 billion a year. By 2015, Russia had cut those purchases by almost 40 percent. They plan more cuts in the future. Farmers in Europe and other parts are feeling the economic pain of this large market loss. A recent Bloomberg report found that Russia is working diligently to increase…

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Union of Concerned Scientists – Fix Food and Farming

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Touch the Soil News #283 Usually when we think of the Union of Concerned Scientists we think about things like global pollution, unsustainable energy or climate change. However, the scientists recently came out with a 20-page report that had some pretty bold statements about the nation’s food system. Following are two statements they published: The nation’s cities are at the frontlines of a food system that is sickening millions of Americans every year and keeping many of these same people impoverished. This dysfunctional system is the product of federal food and agriculture policies that encourage overproduction and overconsumption of unhealthy processed foods. Local communities should not have to fight an…

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In a World of Less-Than-Abundant-Food – Would You Exploit the Situation?

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Touch the Soil News #218   “Investing in agricultural land is the most basic way to benefit from the growing worldwide demand for food.” -Westchester Asset Management   This statement, perhaps more than most, illustrates the way in which the world’s peoples might be held hostage to food not grown in their own backyard or community. Westchester Asset Management is a sub-division of one of the nation’s largest pension-fund managers – the TIAA-CREF Company. TIAA-CREF has $834 billion in assets under management and has created the Westchester Asset Management group to research and acquire and manage farmland assets around the globe. According to the Australian News, Westchester, from Illinois, USA,…

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Can Market Gardeners Capitalize on the Increasing Prices of Food?

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Touch the Soil News #208 The increasing price of food from the industrial food system is driven by a number of factors. Identifying these factors can help a market gardener create strategies that help them compete with industrial-scale efficiencies. Kurtis and Roxanne Williams of Waterwheel Gardens (Emmett, Idaho) are full-time market gardeners. Through innovation and creativity they have found ways to compete for a share of the nation’s food dollars. Perhaps the first concept of opportunity for market gardeners is that industrial-scale efficiencies also come with industrial scale problems and inefficiencies. So let’s make an attempt at identifying the factors driving up food prices that a market gardener may be…

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