Something a lot of preppers worry about is the thought of having their carefully accumulated supplies confiscated by the government and redistributed to people who didn’t bother to prepare. That’s understandable; who wants to see their family go hungry because their food has been taken away?
The government agency people worry about most is FEMA.
It’s responsible for disaster management, and one of its jobs is to distribute food to victims of a disaster. That makes it an obvious focus of concern for anyone who has food stockpiled. But what’s the truth? Is FEMA really planning to confiscate your emergency reserves?
This might be controversial but no, they’re not. FEMA really don’t want to go door to door, confiscating stored food so they can redistribute it. Their legal powers to do this are very dubious, for a start. Some websites claim that Executive Order 10998, a Kennedy-era law, gives FEMA the authority to seize all food supplies. Good news – it doesn’t. Nor does any other EO. Realistically, the last thing FEMA want to be getting involved in is confiscating private food supplies. Apart from anything else it would be incredibly manpower-intensive and most likely pretty dangerous. They’d need to search every house for supplies that people hadn’t admitted to having, and it’s safe to say that anyone who did have three months’ worth of food in their basement wouldn’t be too cooperative about handing it over.
So does this mean you can relax and stop worrying about FEMA coming for your food?
Well, not quite. Depending on what sort of disaster we’re talking about – and on where you live – it’s possible that government officials will try to confiscate private supplies(see what you can do to avoid that)
FEMA’s immediate response to a disaster is to bring in food supplies from its own stockpiles. If that isn’t enough – and if the disaster affected more than one or two states, it probably wouldn’t be – they would turn to large food processors. Handing a canned goods factory a requisition order and promise of later payment is quick and easy. If even that wasn’t enough, wholesalers, warehouses and grain silos would be their next ports of call. Bulk food is what FEMA are looking for. It’s easier to transport, and nobody’s going to shoot at them when they come to take it. Plus, in most of the USA, there’s a lot of bulk food available for requisition.
But what if there isn’t? Sure, a storm or even a big earthquake isn’t going to destroy bulk supplies across a wide area – but a nuclear attack would. Food processing plants, distribution centers and animal feedlots tend to be located near transport hubs, and those are prime targets for enemy nukes. A lot of food supplies are going to go up in smoke.
Not all of the will, of course, but destroying transport hubs also means it’s going to be hard to move what survives. Large areas of the country – anywhere that doesn’t have a food processing industry – are going to be cut off from the supplies that do exist. And that’s when FEMA – or, more likely, local officials – are going to start thinking about confiscating private food stocks.
They won’t get to that right away, of course.
There will still be wholesalers and supermarkets, and they’ll take control of those as quickly as they can. Even local grocery stores will be checked out, and if they have a stock room that hasn’t been looted yet, that will be seized. How much will they get, though? Nowhere near enough. Expect stores to be mostly empty anyway, if there was any warning of the crisis – panic-buying will have cleared the shelves of most food. Looters will have taken a lot of what’s left. Realistically, what’s left in the stores is going to feed people for a week at most. If transport from the main food stores isn’t up and running by then (and after a nuclear attack, it won’t be) that’s when someone might come looking for private supplies. So who’s most at risk?
The biggest risk is if you have neighbors who know that you’re a prepper.
If they’re hungry, and they know you have supplies, they’re going to tell any passing government official – whether that’s a FEMA team or a local cop – that they know where a load of food is stashed. Most likely, a few minutes later you’ll be getting a knock on the door and someone will be telling you it’s time to “help the less fortunate” by turning over most of your food. The more you can do to keep your preparations quiet, the better.
On a larger scale, if you live in an area with a large food processing industry, and this isn’t destroyed in an attack, there is little or no risk of anyone trying to confiscate your supplies. However, if there’s a likely target near this industry – an airport, major freeway intersection or port, for example – then it’s likely the food stocks there will either be destroyed or made inaccessible. If that happens there will be a serious food shortage, and a confiscation program is very likely.
The risk of confiscation also depends on what farms in your area are producing. If they’ve just brought in a large crop of wheat or corn, this will be a high value asset for FEMA and they probably won’t be interested in your supplies. Other types of farming can be a different story. Livestock isn’t a great emergency food source. Processing it into meat is labor-intensive, and FEMA would struggle to do it, so they’re much more likely to consider confiscation. The same goes in fruit-growing areas. Fruit isn’t an ideal food source and it also doesn’t last very long. Stockpiled emergency rations are specifically chosen for their long life and nutrition, so they’re going to look much more attractive to FEMA or local authorities.
In short: if you live in any state with a coastline you’re at higher risk of the government trying to redistribute your supplies.
If there’s a major city within 50 miles of you, you’re also at higher risk – cities need a lot of food, especially if food processors and warehouses around it have been destroyed.
The states with the lowest risk of confiscation are the Midwestern states that grow a lot of wheat and corn. There will be plenty food available for FEMA to requisition and distribute. Even if it’s not harvest season, thousands of tons will be stored in silos, warehouses and processing plants.
If you want to be safe from confiscation, the best places to be are in rural areas of Iowa, Illinois. Nebraska, Indiana, Minnesota or Ohio. That’s where the bulk of the easily distributed food is, so there will be no shortage of supplies for FEMA to hand out. If they can get their hands on tons of food in a facility designed for easy loading onto trucks, they won’t be interested in your supplies.
Even if you’re not in one of the higher risk areas, though, the best thing you can do is not advertise that you have a food stockpile. FEMA might not be interested, but your neighbors will be. You’re prepared to defend your supplies – but why attract attention you don’t want? If someone tries to take your food there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to stop them, so keep your preparations as discreet as you can. Even the government can’t take what it doesn’t know about.
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