Since they can't make any more money off the poor with debt, Wall Street is turning to making money off food by speculating on commodities.
As farmers confront mounting costs and riots erupt from Haiti to Egypt over food, Garry Niemeyer is paying the price for Wall Street's speculation in grain markets.
Commodity-index funds control a record 4.51 billion bushels of corn, wheat and soybeans through Chicago Board of Trade futures, equal to half the amount held in U.S. silos on March 1. The holdings jumped 29 percent in the past year as investors bought grain contracts seeking better returns than stocks or bonds. The buying sent crop prices and volatility to records and boosted the cost for growers and processors to manage risk.
Niemeyer, who farms 2,200 acres in Auburn, Illinois, won't use futures to protect the value of the crop he will harvest in October. With corn at $5.9075 a bushel, up from $3.88 last year, he says the contracts are too costly and risky. Investors want corn so much that last month they paid 55 cents a bushel more than grain handlers, the biggest premium since 1999.
"It's the best of times for somebody speculating on grain prices, but it's not the best of times for farmers," said Niemeyer, 59. "The demand for futures exceeds the demand for cash grains."
Commodity investors control more U.S. crops than ever before, competing with governments and consumers for dwindling food supplies. Demand is rising with population and income gains in Asia, while record energy costs boost biofuels consumption, sending grain inventories to the lowest levels in two decades.
Greedy speculators are now causing starvation in their merciless, unrestrained thirst for profit at everyone else's expense.
After bailing out Bear Stearns and other banks with cash infusions, how much of the tax payer's money is now going into driving up commodity prices?