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Amish Craze Going Mainstream?

Commodity Prices Changing Life As We Know It

Start with ethanol. Developed to make our cars more fuel-efficient, our foreign oil dependence more remote, and our farmers more money, this theoretical savior as of just two years ago is now being blamed for putting a greater pinch on the consumer wallet by thinning corn reserves.

In a time when even a technological advancement like E85 can go from beneficial to questionable to ironic, it seems like every move we make is a no-win situation. The solution, says Steve Shenk, director of eFoods Direct, is to take matters into our own hands.

An expert in the food business for 27 years, Shenk offers your listeners a unique perspective on how to look ahead by looking back, with a return to the self-reliance practices of generations past.

"While some might make cynical jokes about a horse-and-buggy society in response to our negative economic trend," says Shenk, "there is some merit in examining that lifestyle, just from the standpoint that we can all benefit by relying less on the government and doing more to prepare ourselves for tougher times ahead."

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The economy has shown a bump in consumer spending following the wave of tax rebate stimulus checks, but on the heels of that, there isn't much to look forward to. The price increases in energy, food and other staple cost-of-living items will not wane, and a rebound in the frail housing and job markets is a long climb.

According to Shenk, consumers need to buy with a big-picture mentality and an economist's view. He's available for interviews to explain this and offer your audience other insights that can really make a difference.

About Steve Shenk and eFoods Direct
For the last 27 years, Steve Shenk has been the director of the J. Michael Stevens Group, the premier nationwide supplier of bulk, high nutrition, low moisture foods, directly to the consumer. He is the foremost authority on agricultural projections, trends and conditions as they relate to food on the family dinner table.

Steve is an unbridled optimist on a mission to help people rediscover the spirit of rugged, self-reliance that made America strong. With his quick wit and charming, Minnesota, country-boy attitude, Steve will leave you and your listeners believing that there's real hope for the future. The sons and daughters of the pioneers still have what it takes to make America "The land of the free and the home of the brave".

The first step in becoming fearless of the worldwide famine is to have your own food. By getting a supply of bulk food and learning to use it a family can feed themselves tomorrow at today's prices.

Summary Points

* What families need to do is the same thing that speculators and commodity investors are doing and that is to buy tomorrow's, next month's and maybe even next year's food at today's prices.

* The families who are already in trouble with food costs need to buy a good quantity of bulk, low moisture food (which will cost less than half grocery store prices) and then learn to cook. Buying "cheap" and learning "fast and easy" "real home cooking" methods will save them 75% of their present grocery cost.

* To find top-quality, nutritionally well-balanced and organized bulk food supplies contact efoodsdirect.com or 800-409-5633.

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE MAY BE HELPFUL WITH SHOW PREPARATION:

Food price spike: Is ethanol to blame? A devastated corn crop is likely to exacerbate costs at the grocer. Some people are pointing a finger at the ethanol production laws.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - It's hard to miss: Americans are paying more at the supermarket checkout these days.

Prices have increased 5% since last year, and it could get worse. The U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that food prices will bump up another 5.5% in 2008.

One of the reasons is that the price of corn - a staple ingredient in a variety of foods from cereals to cola and the main ingredient in animal feed - is selling above $7.50 a bushel, about 119% above the price from a year ago.

The nation's corn crop was hurt by an unusually rainy spring. More recently, the havoc-wreaking floods in the top Midwestern corn-growing states wiped out farms and threaten future harvests.

"It seems pretty clear that we'll have a substantially lower planted acreage than last year, and we'll probably have a lower yield too," said former U.S. Department of Agriculture chief economist Keith Collins, who was commissioned by Kraft Foods to study food prices. "We're looking at a good drop in production, and as a result, corn prices will spike."

Now the rising price of corn is fueling a movement to reduce the amount of corn ethanol that is added to American gasoline.

Ethanol's primary component is corn, so demand for the crop has soared since the ethanol standard was enacted in 2005 and increased with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The government passed the legislation in an effort to support the U.S. farm and ethanol industry, to promote cleaner-burning fuels and to reduce the nation's dependence on foreign oil.

But in late April, Texas Gov. Rick Perry petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency to grant a 50% waiver on the nation's 9 billion gallon corn-based Renewable Fuel Standard.

"While the RFS was a well intentioned policy, it has had the unintentional consequence of harming segments of our agriculture industry and contributing to higher food prices," Perry wrote in his petition.

The EPA has opened a period of public comment about the standard and will make a decision on the waiver by July 24.

The EPA requires that 7.76% of gasoline products be blended with ethanol in 2008. That amounts to about 9 billion gallons U.S. ethanol producers have to put out this year. Next year, they will have to produce 10.5 billion gallons.

Gov. Perry said the "artificial pressure" on the corn crop created by the mandate threatens "irreparable damage" to livestock operations across the country.

Ethanol puts pressure on food prices

Critics of the program argue that a corn shortage could be exacerbated by the government's demand for ethanol, thus raising food prices even further for consumers.

"A lot depends on how badly this weather has devastated the corn crop," said Thomas Elam, an agricultural economist at Indiana University who was commissioned by the Balanced Food and Fuel Coalition to release a study on the matter. "A smaller crop will be devastating to meat, dairy, and poultry producers if the Renewable Fuels Standard is maintained, and consumers will suffer as food and fuel costs rise."

About 5% of the world's corn supply goes to producing bio fuels - representing a whopping three years of growth in typical crop production, according to Elam.

"Corn will have to go to at least $8 a bushel to squeeze out enough food use to keep up with corn for ethanol," he said. "Food prices will be significantly impacted by corn if RFS goes to 10.5 billion gallons for 2009."

How significantly? Collins said food costs could rise 23% to 35% above the normal annual inflation rate of 2.5% over the next two to three years if the RFS mandates are not reduced. Elam said food price inflation rate could go as high as 7% without a mandate reduction.

The USDA also maintains ethanol has an impact on food prices, even if it is an indirect link.

"Higher ethanol production definitely and directly raises the price of corn," said USDA economist Ephraim Leibtag. "Higher corn prices have an impact on food prices on the retail level."

By contrast, if the government were to reduce the RFS by just half, both Elam and Collins agree that corn prices would fall $2 a bushel, which could save more than $9 billion in feed and food costs.

The case for the ethanol standard

Not everyone is convinced that ethanol poses such a definite threat to food prices.

"Collins' conclusions are at odds with the conclusions of a number of other ethanol studies," said Geoff Cooper, director of research at the Renewable Fuels Agency. "The global food index has increased 40% and ethanol is only responsible for 2% to 3% of that," he said, referring a study conducted by Bush administration economists.

It's also possible that the corn crop will rebound before the growing season ends in the fall. As a result, Cooper noted the impact that ethanol will take on food prices this year is still up in the air.

Another RFA spokesman suggested that Collins' study was biased, since it was sponsored by Kraft Foods, which would benefit by a reduction in the RFS.

Kraft said that it expects the company's commodity costs to increase 12% or $1.7 billion in 2008, but dismissed the RFA's claim.

"Dr. Collins is a widely-respected, credible and award-winning researcher and former chief economist of the U.S. Department of Agriculture," said Michael Mitchell, a spokesman for Kraft. "His credentials speak for themselves."

Ultimately, Cooper said he doubts that Gov. Perry's waiver request will succeed, because the EPA can only accept a waiver if the law creates significant economic hardship on a state.



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Posted on June 30, 2008


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