Marco Rubio Wants To Make Your Groceries More Expensive

“Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) led a bipartisan group of lawmakers—all of them from Florida—in submitting a petition to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai seeking “an investigation” into what the lawmakers call “the flood of imported seasonal and perishable agricultural products from Mexico.” They ask Tai to invoke Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 to impose “trade remedies” that will protect American growers from the scourge of…low-priced produce.

While they don’t come out and say it directly, it’s obvious from the letter that Rubio and his colleagues are seeking tariffs on Mexican produce. Section 301 is the same mechanism the Trump administration used to impose wide-ranging tariffs on goods imported from China. It’s a law that grants the executive branch broad, unilateral power over trade.

Rubio and the other lawmakers say the Mexican government is subsidizing its domestic agricultural infrastructure as part of a scheme to undercut the prices charged by U.S. growers. “Mexico poses a direct threat to Florida’s seasonal and perishable agricultural industry,” they conclude.”

“Anyone who has taken a basic economics class should be able to explain what’s happening there. A high level of supply tends to push prices downward. Whether grown in Mexico or Florida, it makes sense that cucumber prices would be at their lowest when there are a lot of cucumbers in the market.
But that’s not how Rubio and his colleagues see it. Instead, the petition describes this minor pricing difference as “a clear attempt to displace Florida cucumbers from the U.S. market.”

Take a moment to enjoy the fact that some of the most powerful men and women in the U.S. government are freaking out over the idea that American consumers might get to save a few cents on their next cucumber purchase. Then amuse yourself with the optics of American agricultural special interests—which are, of course, pulling Rubio’s strings here—complaining about subsidies, as if “direct government aid” doesn’t account for nearly 40 percent of American farmers’ annual income.

“These Florida politicians are following a time-honored tradition of trying to help their local constituents at the expense of Americans in other states, who benefit from low-priced fruits and vegetables regardless of where they are grown,” says Bryan Riley, director of the free trade initiative at the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. “

There’s An Actual Reason Why Hot Dogs And Buns Don’t Come In Equal Count Packages

“According to the National Hot Dog Sausage Council, the reason why isn’t as strange as you may think. The NHDSC—which was founded in 1994—explained the mismatch packaging is simply because of the way these things were sold back in the day. In fact, it wasn’t until 1940 that we actually began seeing hot dogs packaged in packs of 10 (which is why you typically see in stores now!). So why are buns not in 10-packs too? The NHDSC says it’s because of the way they are baked.

“Sandwich rolls, or hot dog buns, most often come eight to the pack because the buns are baked in clusters of four in pans designed to hold eight rolls,” said the council: “While baking pans now come in configurations that allow baking 10 and even 12 at a time, the eight-roll pan remains the most popular.””

Rising Grocery Prices Pushed Annual Inflation to 8.3 Percent in August

“So-called “core CPI,” which filters out the more volatile categories like food and fuel prices, rose by 0.6 percent in August. In short, falling gasoline prices helped to offset broader and more pernicious inflation across the rest of the economy.”

‘Enormous’ fertilizer shortage spells disaster for global food crisis

“A global fertilizer crunch is threatening to further starve a planet that’s already going hungry.
Officials at the United Nations and beyond are stepping up warnings about the mounting crisis for fertilizers — an essential substance to boost soil fertility — as vulnerable countries in areas such as Africa grapple with prices that have soared by 300 percent since Russia’s war in Ukraine began.

The continent, where smallholder farmers feed the majority of people, is already lacking 2 million metric tons of fertilizer, according to the African Development Bank. The high price of fertilizers will mean less food at a time when people need it most, with more frequent bouts of extreme weather and the Ukraine war still leaving import-dependent countries insecure. Farmers in Europe are feeling similar strains, though to a lesser degree.”

“Making fertilizers is an energy-intensive process, especially for nitrogen-based fertilizers, which use natural gas as an essential ingredient. That means the price of fertilizers tends to correspond with energy costs.

“The increased price is [a] burden for all farmers in the world, but the burden is even higher for those farmers in developing countries that have less financial capacities and organisation to purchase the fertilisers than the European ones,” an EU official wrote to POLITICO.”

“Fertilizer prices were high even before Russia invaded Ukraine, which prompted a further 50 percent spike, according to the European Commission.

The war in Ukraine has exacerbated the problem because of Russia’s outsized role in the world fertilizer market. It’s the world’s top exporter of nitrogen fertilizers, the second largest supplier of potassium and the third-largest exporter of phosphorus fertilizers.

Since its invasion of Ukraine in February, shipping costs and energy prices have gone up. Europe’s fertilizer producers now warn of shortages if the Continent’s imports of natural gas from Russia continue to fall.”

How Gordon Ramsay’s lamb slaughter joke explains our confusing relationship with meat

““the meat paradox”: the mental dissonance caused by our empathy for animals and our desire to eat them.

Australian psychologists Steve Loughnan, Nick Haslam, and Brock Bastian coined the term in 2010, defining it as the “psychological conflict between people’s dietary preference for meat and their moral response to animal suffering.” We empathize with animals — after all, we are animals ourselves — but we’re also hardwired to seek calorie-dense, energy-rich foods. And for most of human history, that meant meat.”

“Almost one in four American adults tells pollsters they’re cutting back on their meat intake — while the country sets new records for per capita meat consumption. We abhor the treatment of animals on factory farms, where 99 percent of meat in the US is produced, yet we dislike vegans. And even those of us who say we’re vegetarian or vegan are often stretching the truth.”

“One of the founding studies of the meat paradox literature, Percival told me, was the one published by the psychologists Loughnan, Haslam, and Bastian in 2010. They gave questionnaires to two groups, and while the subjects filled in answers, one group was given cashews to snack on while the other group was given beef jerky. The surveys asked participants to rate the sentience and intelligence of cows and their moral concern for a variety of animals, such as dogs, chickens, and chimpanzees.

The participants who ate the beef jerky rated cows less sentient and less mindful — and extended their circle of moral concern to fewer animals — than the group that ate the cashews.”

“Even exposure to strict vegetarians or vegans can elicit a “heightened commitment to pro-meat justifications,” Percival says about one study. This might explain why we see per capita meat consumption rise in tandem with rates of veganism and vegetarianism.”

“We make myths to justify our relationship with animals, too. One of the more popular ones is the “ancient contract,” which goes something like this: Animals give us their meat, and in exchange, we give them domestication and thus an opportunity to evolutionarily succeed. This concept was coined by science writer Stephen Budiansky in 1989 and has been touted by food writers Michael Pollan and Barry Estabrook, as well as iconic animal welfare scientist Temple Grandin.”

“We also use language to obscure; one study found that replacing “slaughtering” or “killing” with “harvesting” reduced dissonance, and that replacing “beef” and “pork” on restaurant menus with “cow” and “pig” generated more empathy for animals. Adding a photo of an animal next to the dish further elevated empathy, while also making vegetarian dishes more appealing to study participants.

Percival says the meat paradox can be found across cultures and time periods, and that “there is no culture in which plant foods are problematic in the same way.””

Better Immigration Laws Could Help Lower Food Prices

“Known as the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, the measure was sponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D–Calif.) and Dan Newhouse (R–Wash.) and passed the House twice last year. It aims to improve the immigration mechanics behind the U.S. agricultural workforce, expanding legal pathways available to foreign workers and the domestic farmers who hope to hire them.

The ability to hire more agricultural workers translates into more helping hands for farmers and increased production of goods, which then means fewer food shortages and lower prices at the grocery store.”

World Food Supplies Are Enough To Feed Everyone

“So if there’s enough food to go around, why has the global trend toward lower levels of hunger recently reversed? “As of today, the world has no global shortage of food, but food is quite expensive and people’s wages have not adjusted yet,” said David Laborde, a senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute. “The main issue is that we have problems moving this food around, either due to the war or export restrictions.”

As a result, world food prices reached an all-time high earlier this year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The price increases are the result of a concatenation of events stemming from the disruptions caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, including price increases in fuels and fertilizers and blocked grain exports. In addition, the WFP notes, “Conflict is still the biggest driver of hunger, with 60 percent of the world’s hungry living in areas afflicted by war and violence.”

In a world with more than enough food to feed everybody, despotic governmental brutality and stupidity are once again causing famines.”

Sri Lanka’s protests are just the beginning of global instability

“Sri Lanka’s economy is in free fall. The country doesn’t have enough money to buy essentials: food, medicine, and especially fuel. Buses can’t run, schools can’t open. The economic crisis was years in the making because of mismanagement, but terror attacks in 2019, and later the Covid-19 pandemic, which shriveled Sri Lanka’s tourist economy, pushed it to the brink.

But the domestic political turmoil unfolding in Sri Lanka also links back to the instability across the globe, including the war in Ukraine and all of its consequences.”

“I tend to believe in markets, but I will say that markets for basic necessities like food, these are not markets you want to operate according to cold economic logic. The market for food is not a market where you want to wind up at the end of the sale with no available supply. We can’t have that because we need to have buffers in the system precisely because of events like the ones we’ve seen. And so if that’s physical grain reserves, [or] if it’s governments willing to use what they call virtual reserves, which are basically governments, in a coordinated fashion, intervening in markets to short these futures contracts to drive prices back down.

There are things that can be done. It’s just going to take an investment of resources and, I think, broader awareness of the enlightened self-interest that it does not make the United States any safer and more prosperous to exist in the world where many of our trading partners and many of our strategic partners around the world are facing instability because they can’t feed their populations.”

Biden races against time to unlock Ukraine’s trapped grain

“The Biden administration and European allies have been working for weeks to build out the European Union’s “solidarity lanes,” a patchwork of ad hoc rail and truck land routes out of Ukraine, with the eventual goal of shipping the bulk of the grain to Romania’s seaports, so it can reach fragile countries across Africa and the Middle East reeling from food shortages and severe drought. But for now, they’re trying to keep it from being stolen by Russian forces or spoiling in makeshift containers inside Ukraine as the fighting continues.”