I generally don't buy the Wall Street Journal on a regular basis, but from time to time they run series on agribusiness and farming in the US that are quite revealing, and are the equivalient of going through a mountain of USDA documents with an expert who knows what to look for.
I, like others, depend on donated or "low priced" surplus food to help with a local food pantry and soup kitchen I'm involved with - Understanding what is happening at the top of the distribution chain is very, very important to that effort. For those of us who are urban or suburban community gardeners raising food for our families, food pantries, and general hunger coalition efforts, understanding what is going on in this larger, international stage will help us with our planning.
Alas the Wall Street Journal's web version is a pay-as-you go operation, otherwise I would forward you the article in it's entirety. In stead, I will input some excerpts to give you an idea of how informative this series will be, and why it is important for us to read it.
Clinton Community Garden
The Wall Street Journal (c) 2004 - June 18, 2004
"'Grain Drain - New Farm Powers Sow the Seeds of America's Agricultural Woes: Long a Buyer of U.S. Wheat, Russia is Now a Threat: Economic Clout at Risk - Mr. Grenz Contemplates Soy'
By Roger Thurow, Scott Kilman and Gregory L. White
On a vast, windy plain, a farmer swells with optimism as he surveys a carpet of wheat stretching toward the horizon. Bankers are throwing money at him to reap bigger harvests. Grain traders are elbowing their way to his front door, eager to export his wheat. Last year, he marvels, "they sold it to the Arab Emirates."
This tableau has long been a trademark of the American Great Plains, which flourished for more than a centruy on an export economy fueled by amber waves of grain. But this farmer, Yuri Bogomolov is on the opposite side of the world. His tractor was made in Minsk. His seed variety is Don 95, named for a river that nutured his Cossack ancestors. The nearest town is Zernograd - Grainville, in Russian.
Meanwhile, in Eureka, S.D., Greg Grenz is retreating from wheat. Seven years ago, he sowed 2,000 acres. This season he planted only 975. On eht same spring day that Mr. Bogomolov was admiring his realm, Mr. Grenz was preparing to plant soybeans, which for now more profitable. "You just can't make a living growing wheat anymore," he said from behind the wheel of his pickup truck."
America's run as a wheat powerhouse, and the dominant player in global agriculture, is under attack from a a crop of newly emboldened, low-cost international rivals who are striking at one of the main pillars of American econonmic might: food exports."
Again, from wherever you stand on the food distribution chain in the USA and Canada, "The Farms Race," an important series of articles beginning today in the Wall Street Journal.