The numbers prove it

Alan Guebert

Journalism, like baseball, aging and bridesmaids, is often about the numbers. Sometimes big numbers are good and other times small numbers are better. Either way, numbers usually define our work, our families and our lives in more ways than we care to count.

They can surprise us, too.

Like in early November when the International Food Policy Research Institute reported that as world markets sweated over a 2.9 million metric tons drop in Ukraine wheat exports for the first six months of 2022, the North American drought already had sliced more than twice that amount or 6.8 million metric tons off global production.

Moreover, when you add up Ukrainian wheat, corn and barley exports for the 2022 and 2023 marketing year through November 8, the war-torn nation’s exports are down 6.3 million metric tons compared to year earlier data. As grim as that sounds, it’s still less than this year’s drought shortened losses in North America.

Another set of 2022 and 2023 attention grabbing numbers were published November 7 by the farmdoc Daily consortium at the University of Illinois. All point to the staggering rise of commodity production in South America.

For example, write University of Illinois and Ohio State University market experts, “Brazil [alone] produces more soybeans than the U.S.,” “Argentina produces almost as many soybeans as the combined output of Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Indiana,” and the “rest of South America produces more soybeans than every state except Illinois and Iowa.”

If ranked against the U.S. in the global soybean market, they add, “World shares… are 54% for South America, 37% for Brazil, 34% for the US [and] 13% for Argentina…”

The key point, they add, is that “Understanding soybean production in South America is as important, maybe more important, for American farmers and agribusinesses than understanding soybean production in the U.S.”

The southern hemisphere’s newfound market muscle is also being flexed at the United Nation’s annual climate change conference, COP27, in Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt. Early in the global gathering, “Leaders from poor countries” used “their speeches… to demand wealthy governments and oil companies… pay up for damages being inflicted on their economies,” noted Reuters on November 8.

As aggressive as that might sound, it’s really a deft sidestep around the massive elephant at COP27. The meeting is being held in a desert resort city on the “southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula,” explained the New York Times, “hundreds of miles from the hectic, overcrowded,” in other words, real world “of Cairo.”

That’s not the half of it. Consider the jet fuel alone used by world leaders to offer their cures on the overuse of jet fuel, for instance as they drop in and buzz out of the air-conditioned conference.

Last year, estimated the Daily Mail, Britain’s largest circulation newspaper, President Joe Biden’s trip to COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland that required five jet aircraft and 85 cars generated 2.2 million pounds of carbon or the same amount 140,000 typical Americans generate in one year.

Biden is scheduled to speak at COP27 on November 11, his first stop of a fuel gulping trip that continues on to Cambodia and Indonesia.

Which, at nearly 10,000 miles from White House, is about as far away as any politician can get from Washington, D.C. a week after what’s been the most bruising, offensive and ugly election season most Americans have ever witnessed and expensive. In fact, the election has been obscenely, sinfully and stupidly expensive.

According to the campaign cash tracking, preliminary spending records show that two U.S. Senate candidates in Georgia, incumbent Raphael Warnock and challenger Herschel Walker spent a combined $142 million on the race. Other estimates guess the seat may, in the final tally, cost a combined $250 million.

It’s not alone. The five most expensive Senate races each spent over $100 million. Collectively the five (Georgia, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona and Ohio) spent an incredible $626.8 million figures

Which, if nothing else, reminds us what humorist Will Rogers said nearly a century ago, “We have the best Congress money can buy.”

The numbers prove it.

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