News reports in the popular press, especially on TV, have surfaced in the last few days about high meat prices at the grocery stores. Odds are that the prices for red meat, dairy and poultry will go higher before they go lower, ag economists say.
The problem with these stories, farmers say, is that they throw out the complaint- high meat prices- and then stop before offering any explanation as to why meat prices are up. The answer, of course, is not simple, and some of the younger journalists doing the reporting weren't even in the business when the fall-out that led to the high prices started.
Higher meat prices now, especially for meat and dairy, are largely because high feed prices beginning in 2007 to 2008 took their toll, and forced many producers out of the business. Shrinking numbers of producers and herd size have finally tightened up supplies to where the price for live animals is up, and has been since last year. That's reflecting itself at the grocery store.
Meanwhile, hog farmers like Ernie Brames, Huntingburg, are concerned that the consumers will blame livestock producers for the surge in meat and dairy and poultry prices. His contention is that it isn't fair that livestock producers shoulder all the blame.
Brames still believes that ethanol, which gobbled up a big percentage of the corn supply quickly and led to sharply higher grain prices, put livestock producers behind the curve until they could adjust to living with higher feed prices. The higher feed prices have moderated, which also helps. Now, however, many producers are simply trying to recover losses from the lean years, even though production is now profitable.
The sticking point, Brames insists, is that ethanol was supported by a subsidy that went to those that blended the fuel. The subsidy held for many years. It was finally removed January 1. Right now, there is no subsidy to the ethanol industry form the government. However, there are still rumblings that it may not be a dead issue, and that there are no guarantees that someone in Congress won't try to bring it back.Livestock producers like Brames are thankful for better conditions now, but don't feel they're the ones that should be blames, especially alone, for high meat [prices. Instead, he sees it as a result of the U.S. energy policy of the last decade. What's needed, he says, are reporters who can tell the whole story, not just in sound bites.