The cost of beef is rising, and of course the right wing media wants you to believe that it’s all President Obama’s fault. In fact, the right has been blaming the president for rising food costs for over a year. Here is a sample of reporting from various right wing “news” and commentary sites on the topic.
“Under Obama, Price of Gas Has Jumped 83 Percent, Ground Beef 24 Percent, Bacon 22 Percent” –Headline from CNSNews.com, 1/20/12
“To protect ethanol, Obama seeks to inflate meat prices” –Headline from The Washington Examiner, 8/14/12
“Obama Works Aggressively To Raise Cost Of Beef-Issue Is About Climate Change NOT Consumer Protection” –Headline from Steven Frank’s California Political News and Views, 4/14/13
“Get Ready To Pay High Meat Prices Thanks To Obama” –Discussion board topic from AnnCoulter.com
It is true that beef prices have been rising, but most of the cost increase has little if anything to do with President Obama or his policies. One of the biggest reasons for the price increase is simple supply and demand: U.S. beef production is at a 21 year low. Bloomberg.com reports that farmers have been cutting the size of their herds in response to increased feed costs. From the Bloomberg story:
Ranchers still haven’t recovered from last year’s drought that sent grain costs to a record and spurred them to slaughter more cattle. While feed costs are now slumping as U.S. farms prepare to reap the biggest corn crop ever, it takes more than two years to raise enough animals to expand supply.
The 2012 drought covered over 80 percent of the United States, which was the largest area of drought in the country since 1956. The country’s midwestern “corn belt” was especially hard hit, forcing farmers to search to find feed sources for their livestock. As reported in a story on Minnesota Public Radio’s website from July 2012
In southern Illinois’ Effingham County, Kenny Brummer is facing a double whammy – the drought has savaged the 800 acres of corn he grows for his 400 head of cattle and some 30,000 hogs, leaving him scrambling to find the couple of hundred thousand bushels of feed he’ll need.
While much of the country has received more rainfall in 2013, some cattle producing areas are still suffering from widespread drought. According to Bloomberg
About 67 percent of Texas, the largest cattle-producing state, remained in “severe drought” on July 23, up from 33 percent a year earlier, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.
If you are a right wing blogger or reporter, blaming the president for increasing beef prices is more popular with the base than discussing the real reasons behind the increase. Talking about feed prices would eventually lead to talking about drought, and talking about drought would eventually lead to talking about climate change, and nothing outside of giving the president credit for an accomplishment makes a flat earth Republican’s head spin like climate change.
However, climate change is believed to have been a major contributor to a variety of severe weather in recent years, and droughts are no exception. Climate researchers are predicting that severe weather events, including droughts, will occur frequently throughout this century. According to researcher Aiguo Dai, writing in the journal Nature Climate Change
I conclude that the observed global aridity changes up to 2010 are consistent with model predictions, which suggest severe and widespread droughts in the next 30–90 years over many land areas resulting from either decreased precipitation and/or increased evaporation.
If that prediction is accurate then we have more events such as the 2012 drought to look forward to as we move through the 21st century. Unfortunately for Republicans, President Obama will be gone after January 20, 2017, so who or what will they blame then for increasing food prices? If recent history is any indication, it will be anybody or anything other than the real culprits.