"Prices for nearly all major U.S. agricultural program crops--corn, barley, sorghum, oats, wheat, rice, and soybeans--have exhibited extreme price volatility since mid-2007, while rising to record or near-record levels in early 2008. Several international organizations have announced that the sharply rising commodity prices are likely to have dire consequences for the world's vulnerable populations, particularly in import-dependent, less developed nations. In the United States, high commodity prices have pushed farm income to successive annual records and have sharply lowered government farm program costs, but they have also stoked the flames of food price inflation and have raised costs for livestock producers and food processors. In addition, high, unexpectedly volatile prices have increased the risk and costs associated with grain merchandising. In particular, they have dramatically increased the cost of routine hedging activities (i.e., pricing commodities for purchase, delivery, or use at some future date) at commodity futures exchanges and, as a result, have diminished 'forward contracting' opportunities for grain and oilseed producers who are eager to take advantage of record high market prices. […].This report examines the causes, consequences, and outlook for prices of the major U.S. program crops, and provides references for more detailed information."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34474