OTHER OPINION: Make sure there’s food for next year

By Chicago Tribune

The cost of a typical turkey-with-all-the-trimmings meal rose by about three cents this year. At less than $5 per serving, the traditional Thanksgiving dinner remains a bargain.
Americans count on an abundant supply of affordable food. This year, as usual, it’s there.
And next year? It’s not so certain that farmers will be able to feed the planet’s 7 billion inhabitants.
The summer drought across the U.S. heartland left corn and soybean supplies severely depleted. Russia and the Ukraine suffered from a dry summer too, cutting into wheat stockpiles. With production down and consumption still robust despite higher prices, global reserves of staple crops stand at critically low levels.
Alarms have sounded: The World Bank has issued a global hunger warning. There is no margin for unexpected events next year. And let’s face it, practically every year brings unexpected events in agriculture.
What to do? For starters, America needs a sensible agricultural policy that reflects the high risk of a hunger crisis.
That begins with easing or eliminating the Renewable Fuel Standard, the requirement that a certain amount of biofuel go in the gasoline supply. As is, the Environmental Protection Agency is forcing blenders to dilute their fuel with 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol in 2012, an amount set to rise to 15 billion gallons by 2015. Because ethanol is brewed from corn, the renewable fuel requirement diverts 40 percent of America’s largest cash crop from food to fuel.
And, of course individuals can step up to make sure someone else gets fed.
Americans have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Decisions made now will go a long way to determining if the world has a bounty next year and in years to come.