Markets Work

April 30, 2008

April 30, 2008

Hello everybody out there in farm country.

I wish it was not the case, but the news about rising food prices and hungry people cannot be ignored. It must be answered.

To begin with, the increase in food prices around the world cannot be blamed on our ethanol program. Here are the facts. We are exporting a record amount of food to the rest of the world. We are not hording it. Some countries are. They have imposed export controls. We are exporting more tons of grain than ever in our history. So, it can't be argued that because of our ethanol program we have denied food to the hungry of the world. That is my first point.

My second point is that hunger in the world is a legitimate concern. Very serious. We provide far more humanitarian food aid than any other country. Our support of the World Food Program and Catholic Charities dwarfs other developed countries.

To make my third point, I will use a poor African country, Mauritania, as an example. In that country, well over half of a family income is spent on food. We spend less than 10%. Their cost of wheat has gone up 67% -- cooking oil is up more than 100%.

Fifteen years ago, they decided to develop a vast acreage of land with irrigation to grow food in the southern part of the country. They were unable to complete the project. Their failure left the fields abandon to weeds -- no longer a national priority.

But it is now!

They know they need more food and they know that they can grow more. They have the economic incentive. When food is worth more, you can afford to invest in the production of food. For so many years, the price of corn, wheat, and rice was so low that it was hard to justify investment.

But now, look for countries all over the world to respond to these new economic realities. They will invest in hybrid seeds, genetically engineered seeds, irrigation, weed and insect control, and new equipment.

I had wondered what it would take to tear down the road blocks to more production and efficiency that Europe, Japan, and others have imposed against new technology of seeds and biotech.

Now, we have circumstances that will clear the way for a brighter future for rural people all over the world. It will take time, but markets work. A better price means more investment means more production.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.