Iowa Floods May Further Deepen Food Crisis

Flooding in the Midwest comes at a time when the world is facing a global food crisis. Host Liane Hansen talks to George Naylor about the impact of the floods on his crops in Iowa and on the international market. Naylor is past president of the National Family Farm Coalition in Iowa, a grassroots advocacy group for family farmers.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

The floods in the Midwest have damaged millions of acres of crops at a time when the world is already facing a global food crisis. Economists were hoping that a good harvest in the United States would provide some relief. In a few weeks the U.S. Department of Agriculture is expected to release a report about the size of this year's corn crop, a number that could change dramatically, given the recent floods.

For one perspective on the impact these floods might have on the global food supply, we've called George Naylor at his home in Churdan, Iowa. He's a farmer as well as the past president of the National Family Farm Coalition in Iowa. The coalition represents farmers in 30 states who are concerned about the economic downturn and corporate control of the agricultural industry. Welcome to the show, Mr. Naylor.

Mr. GEORGE NAYLOR (Farmer): Yes. Good morning.

HANSEN: Could you just step back a minute. How big of a player is Iowa when it comes to the global food market?

Mr. NAYLOR: Well, Iowa, of course, is in the heart of the Corn Belt. And you will see corn and soybeans raised on almost every acre of farmland in Iowa. Iowa is usually the top one or two producing states in the United States and they United States provides 70 percent of the corn it has traded in world trade and nearly 50 percent of the soybeans.

HANSEN: What kind of effect is that going to have globally?

Mr. NAYLOR: In this case, since so much of the grain comes from the United States, it will have a dramatic effect and prices are already much higher than normal.

HANSEN: So, the prices of corn and soybeans are going to be high. Does that have a ripple effect on other products?

Mr. NAYLOR: Yes. Ninety-nine percent of the soybeans produced in the United States end up as animal feed and about five-eights of the corn crop turns into animal feed. So, that means eggs, milk and meat should be dramatically affected.

HANSEN: All over the world as well as the United States, a similar effect?

Mr. NAYLOR: Yes. Although, you know, it's really the wealthier countries in the world that eat meat and milk and eggs. But also any person that eats food in general is going to be affected because it all has a ripple effect.

HANSEN: The National Family Farm Coalition, of which you were past president, has been calling for the U.S. to support a grain reserve policy. In other words, put some grain aside to act as a buffer during a global food crisis. Well, you know, the flooding now has reduced the supplies even more. So, what are your thoughts about the reserve?

Mr. NAYLOR: Well, there would not be a chance to put any grain to put into a reserve this year. But we can see that the results of not having that kind of a policy.

HANSEN: So, in the short term the price of corn is already rising. What do you expect six months from now?

Mr. NAYLOR: Well, I'm almost positive that livestock prices are going to be much higher. So, milk, meat and eggs should be much higher.

HANSEN: So, when do you think the full extent of the flood damage on the farm industry will be known?

Mr. NAYLOR: That's hard to say. You only have a certain small window a month basically to get the crop planted. Right now, there are still soybeans that have not been planted in my area. And Fourth of July is basically the last day you can plant soybeans and even then you're only looking at about a half of the yield of normal.

HANSEN: George Naylor is a corn and soybean farmer. He is also the past president of the National Family Farm Coalition, a grassroots advocacy group for family farmers. We reached him at his home in Churdan, Iowa. Thank you very much and good luck.

Mr. NAYLOR: You're welcome. Thank you very much.

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