Monday, May 02, 2011

Contextor™ Lives!...

One of my favorite crusades has been to put popular farm statistics in context, so farmers understand better how we fit into the global economy. I have been criticized by listeners/readers that pointing out farming only contributes 1% to the US GDP is bad for our self-esteem. (Seriously, a FB operative actually said that.)

The problem I see with this fairy-tale approach is producers are a) ripe for being fleeced by those who sell us wildly overblown visions of our importance and 2) we make really bad decisions because we don't know how big the other players are.

Here is an example from commodity markets:
The money tells the story. Since the bursting of the tech bubble in 2000, there has been a 50-fold increase in dollars invested in commodity index funds. To put the phenomenon in real terms: In 2003, the commodities futures market still totaled a sleepy $13 billion. But when the global financial crisis sent investors running scared in early 2008, and as dollars, pounds, and euros evaded investor confidence, commodities -- including food -- seemed like the last, best place for hedge, pension, and sovereign wealth funds to park their cash. "You had people who had no clue what commodities were all about suddenly buying commodities," an analyst from the United States Department of Agriculture told me. In the first 55 days of 2008, speculators poured $55 billion into commodity markets, and by July, $318 billion was roiling the markets. Food inflation has remained steady since. [More] [My emphasis] 
While Kaufman is railing about speculators in the above article, about which I am less outraged, I was struck by the sheer numbers. I knew there was a flood of money coming in - I did not appreciate exactly how big this was.

Which kinda makes my point.

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