Wednesday, April 9, 2008
With the dollar plummeting and the reputation of the United States at a low point throughout much of the world, in which ways is the United States still the leader in the world economy? One way is our agriculture –- even if nobody wants to buy our cars anymore, everyone wants to buy the bounty of the United States’ farmland. With the boom in the economies of nations such as China and India, combined with the great demand for biofuels in an age of high gasoline prices, America’s crops are selling at record levels.
One result of this is a great incentive to turn more rural land into producing crops. The New York Times today printed a story about the shift of much farmland out of the federal government’s “Conservation Reserve Program,” which pays some farmers not to grow on certain environmentally sensitive land. With high crop prices, it now pays more to farm much of these lands.
Perhaps even more troubling for the environment is the push to turn forests into crops for biofuels. In a recent edition of Time, Michael Grunwald argued that the biofuel boom is turning into one of the biggest environmental disasters in the world, in large part by encouraging more rapid destruction of rainforests, which destruction spews carbon into the air and drives up the price of corn for the poor.
I won’t look at my soyburger or corn tortilla the same way again …