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Supply & Demand: Will Less Corn Mean Higher Food Prices?

Corn ProductionAccording to an AP article by Mary Clare Jalonick, farmers are set to plant roughly 8% less corn this growing season than they did last year, a move which may cause food prices to rocket even higher. With the increasing use of corn in ethanol based fuels, as well as the frequent use of corn in processed food products, the price of corn has nearly tripled since 2005.

Corn has become nearly essential to life as we know it in the US. If you don’t believe me, read on, and I’ll explain. In addition to the fact that the number of ethanol plants has nearly tripled since 1999, corn has become and integral component in a startling number of the products we use every day. My family discovered this first hand when our youngest child was discovered to have a corn allergy. Through trial and error and a whole lot of research, we’ve come to realize that ingredients derived from corn (corn starch, corn meal, corn flour, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, etc) are found in the majority of processed food products found on US store shelves. In addition, corn based waxes and oils can be used to coat fruits and vegetables, milk cartons and paper plates and cups. On top of that, corn starch is found in many (if not most) pills and tablets, and corn syrup is found in many liquid medications, and corn products are also seen in many types of toiletries, including deodorant, soaps and shampoos.

If you combine the rising cost of fuel, with the potentially rising cost of corn, we could see grocery prices climbing higher, at a time when many families are already facing lay-offs, downsizing and mortgage foreclosures. One way to drive prices back down, would be to decrease demand by relying less on processed foods and starting to buy more actual ingredients. That takes extra effort and time though, so prices would probably have to soar pretty high for enough people to make that choice. In that way, it’s kind of like the problem with soaring gas prices. We’ve become nearly as attached to convenience foods as we have to the convenience of driving our own cars.

Tell us how rising food prices have impacted your family by leaving a comment. Have you made any changes to how you shop or the foods you eat to make up for these increasing prices? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

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