Part of the price rise in Hillcrest's wheat is due to a 30 percent fuel surcharge it passes to customers. And because most of the world's fertilizers are petroleum-based, farmers are damned by low yield if they scrimp, and by high costs if they don't. From January 2007 to January 2008, global fertilizer prices surged by an unprecedented 200 percent, as farmers tried to maximize production of corn-now used for ethanol. Hardest hit are African farmers, many of whom need fertilizer to replenish nutrient-depleted soils.Another vast diversion of world grain is animal products. One pound of meat requires up to 40 pounds of grain input. Not only does the earth have more mouths to feed every second, but more of them are chewing meat as rising living standards in China and India make it affordable. China's per capita meat consumption jumped from 44 pounds in 1980 to 110 pounds today-still half the US. average. According to the Sierra Club, "America could feed most of Africa with the grains we feed to livestock"Adding to global fear is a virulent wheat disease that began in Uganda in 1999. It recently reached Iran and is threatening crops in India and Pakistan. The fungus, known as Ug-99, "can spread rapidly and has the potential to cause global crop epidemics," U.N. expert Dr. Jacques Diouf said this March. In the '50s, a similar plague killed 40 percent of North America's spring wheat.