CHICAGO — Corn futures jumped about 20% during the past week and a half, and were up more than $2.20 over June lows of $3.60. The surge followed a U.S. Department of Agriculture report, which estimated that this year's corn harvest would be about 3% smaller than the harvest of 2009, due partly to moisture damage to many corn plants. Last year's harvest set a U.S. record at 13.2 billion bushels, and if the USDA's current estimates for this year's crop are met, it will be the third-largest harvest on record. This spike could indicate that non-commercial speculation is exerting renewed influence on futures trading markets. Or, commodity traders may simply believe that demand from meat producers, commercial food suppliers, ethanol producers and export markets will outstrip supplies.
WASHINGTON — In response to reports that several groups with ties to the U.S. ethanol industry have asked Congress and the Obama administration to consider a revised subsidy program, the National Chicken Council expressed concern, arguing that new subsidies for corn-based ethanol would raise input costs for meat producers, and ultimately, prices for consumers over time. “The existing subsidy program is a bad idea,” NCC communications director Richard L. Lobb said during a briefing for journalists. “The ethanol industry's new program is a very bad idea at a very bad time. It would add to the federal deficit and contribute over time to higher food prices.” Ethanol blenders currently receive a federal tax credit of 45 cents per gallon of ethanol added to gasoline. The credit is scheduled to expire at the end of this year, but the ethanol industry is lobbying to extend the program through 2011 and then replace it with a revised program. “The ethanol subsidy program should be allowed to expire on schedule,” Lobb argued. “No more corn should be channeled into ethanol through government subsidies and mandates.” In separate news, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week announced that it would allow up to 15% ethanol blends to be sold in the U.S., but only for use in cars manufactured after 2007.
EDISON, N.J. — Josephine Mauldin, an associate with a Staten Island, N.Y., ShopRite location, took top honors in the 2010 ShopRite Cake Decorating Contest. Selected from a field of 65 entrants, Mauldin's “Outdoor Theme” entry was elected winner from a group of 10 finalists, each of whom displayed their entries at the biannual Wakefern Perishables Show at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center last month. “I was shocked! There were some really awesome cakes in the running and I was up against some tough competition,” Mauldin said in a release. “Having never entered a cake decorating contest before, I had no idea what to expect, but I am thrilled to say the least.”
WASHINGTON — Children tend to consume more calories when they are eating meals and snacks prepared away from home, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service. The report, “How Food Away From Home Affects Children's Diet Quality,” indicated that each meal prepared away from home adds more than 100 calories, on average, to a teenager's total daily intake. Foods prepared at schools were even heavier, adding about 145 more calories than a meal prepared at home. However, school foods were often still nutrient-dense, with students likely to consume milk and produce during school meals.