As NewsBusters reported Wednesday, wheat prices soared last week to their highest levels in history.
As many consumer products are made from this grain, and media love to carp and whine about inflation, one would have expected great focus to be given to this issue.
However, as some of the upward pressure on wheat prices is directly attributable to biofuels, a global warming obsessed media seemed concerned to address this inflationary issue for fear that it would bring negative attention on soon-to-be-to-Dr. Al Gore's beloved ethanol.
Bucking the wheat boycott trend was the Washington Post which published a very balanced article on this subject Saturday (emphasis added throughout):
Earlier this year, corn began getting pricey because it was in high demand to make ethanol. That sent prices rising for other corn-dependent products, including milk and meat. Now wheat is costing more and more because of poor harvests and greater global demand, sending grocery bills still higher.
The price of wheat futures reached a record $9 a bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade on Wednesday. And the higher food prices that have resulted from the increase -- items like baguettes, rigatoni and cupcakes cost more -- come at a time when consumers are already feeling strained by energy prices and mortgage debt.
Although wheat doesn't touch as many foods as corn, which is used in products as varied as livestock feed and high-fructose corn syrup, its price directly affects staples such as cereal and bread.
Wouldn't you imagine media, who have been focusing on oil price-related inflation for several years, would have been all over this story?
Unfortunately, it seems on this issue, their desire to protect Al Gore and global warming alarmism is more important than bashing President Bush and the economy, for besides this Post piece, precious few press outlets seriously addressed soaring wheat prices last week, and even fewer addressed the ethanol connection.
As the Post elaborated, this is likely why:
Ethanol, a fuel that can be derived from corn products, set some of the rising grocery prices in motion. Demand for ethanol caused a worldwide shortage of corn this year, sending prices for futures of the crop on the Chicago Board of Trade above $4 a bushel last June, compared with about $2.50 two years ago. As farmers scrambled to grow more corn, crops such as wheat and soybeans were replaced, reducing their supply, according to Michael Swanson, a Wells Fargo agricultural economist.
Understand why the Post's coverage of this issue was such an anomaly? After all, from what I can tell from Google News and LexisNexis searches, although the New York Times briefly mentioned the wheat price issue, they chose not to address the ethanol connection. Ditto USA Today.
On cable television, only CNN addressed wheat prices. But, the six brief mentions Thursday didn't discuss the relationship to ethanol, and didn't focus much attention on the inflationary component. Instead, they typically dealt with a pasta boycott in Italy Thursday as a result of rising prices.
As a result, the only television news outlet that not only reported the soaring price of wheat last week, but also addressed the connection to ethanol was Friday's "CBS Evening News" with Harry Smith sitting in for Katie Couric:
HARRY SMITH, anchor:
If you think your grocery bill is creeping higher, you're right. In the last year the price of a pound of beef is up 27 cents. Twelve ounces of frozen orange juice up 60 cents. And milk is up a whopping 66 cents a gallon. Add cereal, pasta and bread and you've got a recipe for sticker shock at the supermarket. Cynthia Bowers reports on what's behind it all.
CYNTHIA BOWERS reporting:
Complaints from a baker in Chicago.
Ms. EVE COOPER (Red Hen Bread): And we have no choice but to pass some of these costs on to our customer.
BOWERS: Protests from pasta lovers in Italy.
Unidentified Man: (Italian spoken)
BOWERS: A shortage of wheat worldwide is causing a frenzy on the trading floor and driving prices to record highs, up to nine bucks a bushel. Three months ago it was just five. And while that's good for wheat farmers like Bruce Otte in Kansas...
BOWERS: ...it's not so good for the rest of us. The pinch is already being felt at grocery stores around the world. In Italy, fettuccine, linguine and spaghetti are up 20 percent. In this country a loaf of bread is up 13 cents. Here's the problem: Over the past few years farmers have been planting more corn to take advantage of the demand for ethanol. That means fewer farm fields for soybeans and wheat, so those grains were already in short supply when bad weather crippled the wheat crops in Australia, Canada and Europe. Now there is simply not enough wheat to go around. High demand, low inventory adds up to higher prices.
Commodities analyst Tim Hannigan says, across the board, food prices that have been holding steady for the last decade are set to explode.
Mr. TIM HANNIGAN: We've had the pretty cheap food prices here in the US for a lot of the years. It's going away.
BOWERS: Add the increase in wheat products to eggs, already up 33 cents a dozen, and coffee that's up 20 cents a pound, and it's easy to see, a nickel here, a dime there are adding up to more dollars on your grocery bill. Cynthia Bowers, CBS News, Chicago.
From what I can tell, besides the Post and CBS, the major press outlets in America boycotted this story completely. Think it would have been so ignored if not for the ethanol connection?
No, I don't either.