You’ve already had the conversation about building up food supplies at home with someone outside the prepared community and heard the inevitable question, “Why wouldn’t you just go to the store?”
It’s hard to talk canning and food storage with people who don’t realize eggs are laid, not naturally packed in cartons. And discussing the food chain breakdown with someone who thinks supermarkets will be with us forever is like banging your head against a brick wall. Plus there’s always that question … “If our food supply is so fragile, how come there’s still food on the shelves?”
America’s a great producer
One reason things hang on is that America as a nation is a great producer of food. The Midwest bread and beef basket is supplemented by Southern fruits and vegetables, Northern dairies, and Coastal fisheries. We have top-of-the-line equipment, science, and fertilizers, letting us maximize yields to points far beyond what we need within our own borders.
With so many states producing abundant food, dips in some regions can be compensated for by the bounty of others. It allows supermarkets and food agencies to mask the volatility in the food chain. Milk gets a little more expensive, hiding the fact that dairy cow populations are dropping. Cereal packages hold less, hiding the rising price and falling availability of grains. Artificial sweeteners mask the rising cost of natural sugars. And the shelves stay stocked, keeping the masses convinced that nothing is really wrong with America’s food systems.
We have money to pay for imports… regardless of price
Another factor holding up the illusion of a stable food supply is America’s wealth. Unlike other nations, we have the means to buy rice, wheat, beef, and other staples even if the price rising dramatically. Do the higher prices hurt? Yes, they do! But our government is willing to print unlimited amounts of dollars, and, at the moment, everyone accepts dollars.
It’s not the same elsewhere in the world. The Arab Spring was driven in part by rising food prices in countries that lacked the financial flexibility to cover the increases. Poor nations in Southeast Asia have been unable to purchase rice when neighboring countries refused to accept their currency. Many African nations can’t even trade resources for food, given the connection between natural resources and drugs, tribal warfare, and civil unrest throughout the continent.
America, on the other hand, seems to operate on a credit card with no spending limit. If the price of beef doubled, we’d buy it. Soybean, corn, wheat… just charge it. Our credit is good enough… for now.
Weather may be the final straw
What finally un-does it all might not be the stupid economic policies and odd agricultural management systems the government has been pushing on farmers for years. It might be that age-old natural enemy of growers everywhere – the weather.
The U.S. is currently in the middle of its worst drought in fifty years. Crop failures are happening across the country – even in areas where there hasn’t been a crop failure in living memory. The best technologies and fertilizers in the world can’t compensate for a universal lack of water and scorching heat.
Our regular import partners are also struggling. Russia is also in drought. Europe’s producers are looking at poor yields, and Australia’s exports are being snapped up by their hungry Asian neighbors. South America is experiencing unusually wet weather in some areas, with flooding spreading crop disease in Ecuador and Peru and cool weather dampening yield elsewhere.
If we can’t grow it and there’s not any to buy, no amount of price increases will be able to hide the coming gaps in the supermarket shelves. It’s easy for mainstream scoffers to mock food preparation now… there’s plenty of stuff on the shelves. But it won’t last forever.
©2012 Off the Grid News