High fuel prices make it more expensive to lug food -- especially fresh food -- all around the continent. The prices encourage even the most mercenary food manufacturing and retail businesses to think more about shortening their transportation lines.
A case in point is Wal-Mart's recent interest in expanding local food sourcing. Marc at Ethicurean calls Wal-Mart's effort to maintain profits by saving on fuel costs a "less lofty" motivation, but the motivation doesn't bother me. I get more frightened when the cut-throat retail competitor tries to pass for a charity in its feel-good advertising. Marc goes on to point out that only large low-cost regional farm operations, not your friendly farming neighbor, are likely to become Wal-Mart suppliers. Still, that new source of sales for large producers may improve price and market conditions for smaller local producers as well.
For more information, see the Wal-Mart public relations materials, BloggingStocks, the U.S. News and World Report account, an NPR story this week, and Sam Fromartz' coverage of Wal-Mart.