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Expand chart
S&P Global Market Intelligence; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Crop prices like corn, wheat and soybeans have hit highs not seen in almost a decade. And they’re likely to stay that way for a while, sparking jitters over food inflation.

Why it matters: Higher prices are a boon for farmers following years in the doldrums — and after supply chain chaos early in the pandemic. But they will bleed through to consumers at the grocery store and in restaurants.

  • “We believe we are only in the early innings of a multi-year upcycle for the global agricultural economy. This is due to a combination of supply shocks that has left crop inventories quite lean,” analysts at Putnam Investments wrote in a recent research note.

The backstory: China has soaked up a huge amount of U.S. corn and soybeans since the end of the trade war. It purchased more corn from the U.S. in 2020 than in any year since 2006 — and it's on pace to exceed that amount in 2021, the Putnam analysts write.

  • China also bought more soy from the U.S. than it has since 2016.
  • Bad crop weather in key agricultural areas in recent years has contracted supply, Bloomberg reports.
  • Demand for renewable fuels is growing as the economy reopens, the WSJ notes. Corn is used in ethanol, and soybeans are a feedstock for renewable diesel.

What they're saying: “We are getting close to the point of having to ration demand. Farmers are either running out of crops to sell or waiting for the market to go even higher,” Jacqueline Holland, an analyst at Farm Futures, told Bloomberg.

What's next: The soaring prices will pressure margins for packaged food companies and grocery stores.

  • Already, Hormel, J.M. Smucker and Tyson Foods have raised prices, and others are likely to do the same.

Go deeper

Pacific Northwest soon to be ground zero for record-shattering heat

Computer model projection showing the unusually strong heat dome over the Pacific Northwest on Sunday. (PivotalWeather).

A heat wave is bringing unprecedented high temperatures to the Pacific Northwest — a region of the country typically cooled by the ocean, rather than central air conditioning. The heat will begin Friday and last into early next week.

Why it matters: The heat wave will shatter monthly and all-time temperature records in the Pacific Northwest. Some of the records could break the old milestones by several degrees.

At least one person killed, 99 missing after deadly Miami-area condo collapse

A massive search-and-rescue operation is underway after a portion of a 12-story residential building in Surfside, Florida, collapsed at approximately 1:30 a.m. Thursday, according to AP.

The latest: Officials have accounted for 102 people who lived in the high-rise Champlain Towers South, but 99 people remained unaccounted for by midafternoon, said Mayor Daniella Levine Cava of Miami-Dade County at a press conference Thursday afternoon.

Biden strikes infrastructure deal with bipartisan group of senators

President Biden announced Thursday that he had agreed to a roughly $1 trillion infrastructure plan with a bipartisan group of ten senators, declaring: "We have a deal."

Why it matters: The agreement on the size and scope of an infrastructure package is a major achievement for Biden, who has long been a proponent of bipartisanship, but the compromise still faces serious hurdles in the House and Senate.