The NYT says on its front page that volatile food prices are worrying American farmers despite the big profits the mostly rising costs have brought so far.

The paper says the volatility, which farmers say is fed by speculator, is making it much harder for them to hedge their risk by trading derivatives “that in the past have cushioned the jolts of farming, turning already-busy farmers into reluctant day traders and part-time lobbyists.”

…crop insurance premiums rise with the volatility. So does the cost of trading in options, which is the financial tool he has used to hedge against falling prices. Some grain elevators are coping with the volatility and hedging problems by refusing to buy crops in advance, foreclosing the most common way farmers lock in prices.

It all adds up to higher food prices.

Up, up, and away

In other soaring commodities news, the FT says on page one that oil hit (another) record, this time landing at $117.60 a barrel on news of a Nigerian pipeline attack and delays by Saudi Arabia in expanding production.

OPEC says it’s producing enough oil and that there’s a surplus on world markets but that speculators are driving up prices.

Subhed, Subhed

The Times leads its front page with news that the Food and Drug Administration says tainted supplies of the blood-thinning drug heparin have been found in eleven countries and have killed eighty-one Americans. It and the WSJ’s A3 story report that China disputes that the contamination happened in its factories.

The papers say it’s a ratcheting up of the conflict between the U.S. and China over the the safety of the latter’s imports.

Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at rc2538@columbia.edu.