We are now experiencing something that few remember occurred in the early 1970s, a simultaneous surge of both food and energy prices, which are interlinked, the era in which the book, The Limits to Growth came out to much attention. Grain prices more than doubled in late 1972 and remained high until 1975, with that runup preceding the quadrupling of crude oil prices that hit at the end of 1973, giving us the staglation of 1974 and after. What is going on today has come on more gradually, but combined with the financial market problems and the appearance of finally running out of any serious spare capacity in the crude oil sector, looks potentially a lot worse.
I note a similarity between The Great World Food Crisis of then and now, besides the role of rising energy prices. That is a surge of demand for meat, which is wasteful in terms of grain use. In 1972 it was Russia, with Nixon quietly approving a stealth major purchase of massive amounts of US grain by the Soviets as part of his early detente. The Soviets were interested in increasing the amount of meat in their diet and were also facing some grain shortage problems due to bad weather. Today, China in particular is buying more grain to feed a rising demand for meat, and we also have bad drought in Australia pinching supply, quite aside from all the assinine shifting of corn production to ethanol in Iowa driven by subsidies, and propped up by the presidential politics of having Iowa go first in the selection process.