Congressional Panel Discusses Rising Food Prices

Graphic: U.S. Food Prices Rise i i
Graphic: U.S. Food Prices Rise

In Focus

At a hearing on the high cost of food on Capitol Hill, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) summed up the current situation this way: "When you walk down the street, you hear people complaining about food prices almost as much as gas prices."

The Joint Economic Committee, which Schumer chairs, heard from a farmer, a baker, and an economist about why food prices are as high as they are and what to do about it — even as House and Senate negotiators are moving toward a final farm bill.

The hearings explored a number of reasons for the spike in food prices — including the diversion of corn to ethanol production, the rise in prices for fertilizer, equipment and fuel, and bad weather and droughts.

Some experts noted that better weather should help lower prices for some crops, such as wheat, and that corn prices are likely to stabilize in the near future.

In the meantime, advocates for the poor want Congress to approve a new farm bill that would increase spending on food stamps and related nutrition programs by some $10 billion.

But that bill has been hung up because the White House objects to the billions in subsidies it would give to well-off farmers even at a time of record crop prices.

The food crisis is not limited to these shores, and the president asked Congress Thursday to provide some $770 million in global food assistance.

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