International Trade: The Story of a Subsidy

Oddly, some US farm subsidies go to Brazil. Imagine a safety net when you think of a subsidy. If prices are too low, then growers get money from the federal government. During the 1930s Great Depression, the goal of subsidies…

The Real Mother of Invention

Saying that profit, not necessity is the mother of invention, economic historian John Steele Gordon starts his column in this week’s Barrons. His focus was the 18th century clipper ships that earned people like John Jacob Astor $50,000 for a single voyage…

Peanut Butter Economics

Last year, we had a peanut shortage. As a result, Skippy raised its prices and Smucker’s removed its reduced-fat creamy peanut butter spread from supermarket shelves. But now, supply has responded. Predicting a record year, the USDA says the peanut crop will…

Peanuts or Cotton?

Farmers decided to plant fewer peanuts when cotton prices soared. The result? Now peanut prices are skyrocketing. Here is the story. Perhaps it all began with higher cotton prices. Responding, peanut farmers switched some acreage to cotton. Combine that decision…

Cotton or Corn?

One farmer told the NY Times, “It’s going to be cotton stalks everywhere.” With cotton prices soaring, acreage in Texas and other Southern states that had been used for wheat or corn now has cotton growing.  The result? A smaller…

Cotton Markets

On November 10, 2009, the price of 1 pound of cotton was 59.2 cents. A year later it was $1.02 and now, it is close to $1.90. For many of us, the result will be more expensive jeans, more polyester,…

Cotton and Crocodiles

A Malaysian proverb tells us, “Don’t think there are no crocodiles because the water is calm.” Looking at cotton markets, perhaps we should remember the crocodiles. According to The Wall Street Journal, cotton prices are soaring. Speaking as economists, it…