Posted Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012, at 8:27 AM
The big economic lesson of 2009-2010 was that it's good to make things that a rapidly growing China wants to buy, which apparently includes muskrat pelts from such upper midwest hotspots as the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Part of the genius of the muskrat trade is that unlike with many other animals there are few limits to how many you're allowed to trap and kill and "At $10 per pelt—five times what muskrats fetched in the 1990s—pelts were trading at new highs when bidding for last season's furs ended in June."
Interestingly, fur trapping was the main motive for early (largely French) white exploration in this area. Along a variety of dimensions, Asian industrialization seems to be pushing America back to its roots as a natural resource extraction hub. Trappers fear, however, that the looming recession in Europe may sharply cut demand for their signature product and push prices back down.