What goes up, has historically come down

GUELPH, ON (May 17, 2011) – When food prices go up, many are quick to point the finger at our food growers and their sale of grain crops for bio-fuels like ethanol. But grain prices have spiked in the past for many reasons, and always come back down, while the cost of food doesn’t always reflect the decline in grain price.  A new study released by the Grain Farmers of Ontario explores this issue.

“The truth is that farmers receive only about 19% of the retail price of food. Average Canadians earn enough to pay the farmers’ share of annual food purchases by about noon on January 9 of each year,” says Barry Senft, CEO of Grain Farmers of Ontario.

So if it isn’t bio-fuel, what is causing food prices to rise and will they remain high?  A comparison of the commodity/ food price spikes of the 1970s and 1980 provides insight. During this earlier period, many public statements were made that commodity and food prices had climbed permanently to a new plateau. But in inflation-adjusted dollars, crop and food prices moved to new lows after 1980 as the world food supply grew at a rate that exceeded population growth.

A grain price peak was reached in 2008 and a second price peak occurring in 2011 and both are being blamed partially on grain being used for ethanol. However, price patterns are very similar to the double price peak experienced in 1974 and 1980, well before the ethanol industry was established in Ontario, which was followed by several decades of declining real grain and food prices.

In both cases, a number of factors contributed to the price spikes and not just a specific individual cause.  The common factors include crop failure in key production regions caused by extreme weather, high oil prices, civil unrest in major grain buying countries and price increases for agricultural inputs like fertilizer.  The impact of bio-fuels on world food prices in 2007, according to the US Secretary of Agriculture, was no more than 3%.

Some forecasters suggest that current high farm crop and food prices are the new norm and that prices will be both higher and more volatile for years to come. These forecasted higher prices result from a common projection that the world’s food supplying capacity will have to increase by 70% between 2000 and 2050, or about 1.1% per year. The Grain Farmers of Ontario study concludes that this growth is achievable with modern agriculture. In fact, average world grain yield increased by 1.5% per year from 1987 to 2007. 

“I have learned in over 30 years of farming that prices are cyclical – what goes up, comes down and then hopefully goes back up again,” says Grain Farmers of Ontario chair Don Kenny.  “I can’t predict what the future holds, and I expect much will depend on petroleum and input prices. But one thing is certain, Ontario’s farmers are committed to supplying adequate and safe food, first and above all else.”  

Grain Farmers of Ontario

Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat farmers. The crops they grow cover 6 million acres of farm land across the province, generate over $2.5 billion in farm gate receipts, result in over $9 billion in economic output and are responsible for over 40,000 jobs in the province.

Food vs. Fuel: the debate is over

GUELPH, ON (April 26, 2011) – A new study released by the Grain Farmers of Ontario should put an end to the ongoing debate of whether the grain we grow should be used for food or fuel.  We can and should do both.

The abundance of grain grown by farmers around the world and here in Ontario can both protect the environment and feed the world.  As farm yields climb and investments are made in farm production in the developing world, feeding and fueling the world can even be done cost effectively.

“My corn yields have increased by 35 percent since I started farming in 1975,” says Don Kenny who farms just outside of Ottawa and is the chair of Grain Farmers of Ontario.  “I am confident that my land will continue to be productive and that new products and technologies will ensure my family supplies our local livestock market and the ethanol plant down the road for many years to come.”

According to the study by Dr. Terry Daynard and KD Communications, by including an average of just 5% ethanol in regular gasoline, Canadians are reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2.3 million tonnes annually while saving money.  Five percent ethanol blending has reduced annual family gasoline expenditures by more than $100 per year.  Ethanol is also credited with replacing hazardous compounds in gasoline used for octane enhancement and increasing engine efficiency. 

There is also good news for the world’s food supply. Food demands around the world are growing by 1.1% per year according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Fortunately, the Grain Farmers of Ontario study reveals that global grain production has increased by 1.5% per year over the past 20 years. With increasing resources now being directed to agricultural development in some of the world’s hungriest countries, especially in Africa, there is optimism that we will continue to grow the crops and increase production where the need is greatest.

“Quite frankly, it is a relief for us to learn that production of biofuels, like ethanol, here in Ontario makes such a positive contribution to our environment without any notable impact on overall food prices and the world’s ability to supply food,” says Barry Senft, CEO for Grain Farmers of Ontario.  “Regardless of this discussion, our farmers are dedicated to growing a sufficient supply of food for Canadian families”.

Grain Farmers of Ontario

Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat farmers. The crops they grow cover 6 million acres of farm land across the province, generate over $2.5 billion in farm gate receipts, result in over $9 billion in economic output and are responsible for over 40,000 jobs in the province.

One week left to sign up for the winter wheat challenge

GUELPH, ON (April 20, 2011) – There is one week left to prove that your field is up to the challenge. The deadline to register for Grain Farmers of Ontario’s first ever Winter Wheat Challenge is Monday, May 2, 2011. Sign up today and enter for your chance to win a grand prize of $1,500 and bragging rights in the countryside. Second place will take home $750 and third place rakes in $500.

The challenge is open to all Ontario farmers and all legal production practices are permitted. The field must be at least 10 acres and within that, a 1.5 acre plot must be weighed and graded for the challenge. Any certified milling quality winter wheat may be used.

For the full rules and a downloadable registration card, visit www.gfo.ca/winterwheatchallenge or, talk with representatives from our sponsoring companies Bayer CropScience, C&M Seeds and Hyland Seeds to get your registration card.

All registration cards postmarked by May 2, 2010 will be eligible for the competition.

Grain Farmers of Ontario

Grain Farmers of Ontario is the province’s largest commodity organization, representing Ontario’s 28,000 corn, soybean and wheat farmers. The crops they grow cover 6 million acres of farm land across the province, generate over $2.5 billion in farm gate receipts, result in over $9 billion in economic output and are responsible for over 40,000 jobs in the province.