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Reason Foundation

House of Corn Under Water

Michael Flynn
June 14, 2008, 9:10pm

I grew up in the corn belt, along the Mississippi River. So, watching the reporting on the midwestern floods, I've been waiting for these stories to surface. Over the next week, the flooding will move downriver, throwing more corn acreage into doubt. If you think commodity and gas prices are high now, wait until next week, when traders realize that a significant percentage of crop yields have been washed away. We're all dependent on the price of corn now. Because of government folly. The first silliness was the sugar subsidy. Government action lifted the price of sugar in this country to at least double the world price. (Usually three times the world price.) As a result, food processors shifted to High Fructose Corn Syrup, consuming ever larger shares of the corn crop. (And, probably actually sparking the "obesity crisis".) This distortion was compounded by ethanol mandates. Already, 30% of our corn harvest goes to make ethanol. Under current US law, this will likely increase. In the richest of all ironies, it turns out our rush to ethanol may actually exacerbate global warming. Okay, by my count, that's at least five unintended consequences from our folly. (I wish this were satire.) We've gone all-in on corn. It was always a fragile bet. Much of it has just been swept away by the rising flood waters. Unfortunately, it seems things will have to get much worse before rational policy can sneak through. More from reason on ethanol. See here for our take on the ridiculous sugar subsidies.

Michael Flynn is Director of Government Affairs


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