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Farmers seeing long-awaited profits

Richard Oswald and his granddaughter Katelyn.

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Renita Jablonski: Ready, set... Food Fight. (Introduction clip)

Jablonski: Food Fight is our look at the global food crisis. Food shortages are causing havoc around the world. Higher food prices are chomping at our wallets. Though for some, the consequences of the crisis haven't been all bad. For instance, certain small farmers in the U.S. -- their crops are fetching record prices. Land values are up too. Commentator and farmer Richard Oswald says the salad days have been a long time coming.


Richard Oswald: I am descended from countless generations of farmers. There is no other job I am better suited to do than this. Other than the biblical command to go forth and multiply, the greatest force in my life has been the instinct to grow food.

After 40 years of long hours and a lower middle class living, I'm suddenly earning a fair return on labor and investment. That's without government intervention. Now, I have money for health care and retirement and for travel.

In the last five years, my land and crops have more than doubled in value. I've experienced wealth the likes of which I have never seen before. Money seems to flow from my fields in an unending river.

But I'm a little frightened. Farms held by the same bloodlines for generations are selling to outside investors or to corporate farms. Liquidation dissolves friendships and families in a sudden surge of riches.

Not all boats float on this rising tide. Higher commodity prices have improved my life, but they place a strain on those who must buy the things I grow. Small dairies and livestock farms are already financially stressed as feed costs eclipse profits.

Still, high as the prices I receive, the cost of the grain in a single bowl of breakfast cereal is only about 2 cents. All the things I buy, like fertilizer, petroleum, and farm implements now cost more than ever.

Biofuels are blamed for higher food costs, but without that market for my surplus grain, I'd be trapped in a death spiral of rising expenses and negative income.

If market prices should suddenly return to what I was paid just three short years ago, my lifelong career of feeding the hungry would be cut short by bankruptcy. I continue to farm even though selling my cornucopia would yield a golden parachute. I have no desire to bail out, now or ever, because no matter how high I may fly, I always return to the earth I love.

Jablonski: Richard Oswald writes grows corn and soybeans in northwest Missouri and writes for Web site Daily Yonder.

Tomorrow's Food Fight: A look at what happens when a nation goes from self-sufficient food producer to one almost entirely dependent on food from other countries.

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