Throughout history, mankind has waged a constant war with starvation. From the time of the first hunter-gatherers, through the early cultivation of crops and all the way to our modern, industrialized farming techniques, we humans have been working to ensure that we can survive the next winter, when no crops are growing and animals hide in their burrows. To our ancestors, this was a great challenge, unlike today. For that reason, the idea of being a “prepper” would seem strange, as they all lived a prepping lifestyle.
Yet somehow, modern western culture has distanced itself from the reality of needing to grow food. As the number of farmers in our midst keeps dwindling and industrialized farming takes over, fewer and fewer people have any idea of where their food comes from. The idea that the grocery store produces meat and vegetables rather than farmers and ranchers growing it, might make for a good joke, but the ignorance behind it is outright frightening.
The United States is the number one food producing nation in the world; yet we do it with a very small percentage of our overall population. Farming, fishing, forestry and related activities account for only 1.8% of the overall workforce. Those people not only produce the food that we eat here at home, but much that is exported overseas.
We depend on this small portion of our population, plus the others who work in the food service industry, to keep the rest of us fed. The rest of us don’t even bother thinking about it. After all, there’s always food in the grocery store… lots of food. There always has been and there always will be, right?
But what if they can’t? What if, for some reason, the farmers in this country can’t produce the food needed to feed our population, let alone all the other countries in the world that buy $159 billion in American food products? What will we do then?
We may very well be facing that problem in the very near future, a top one percent farmer warns. Between late planting of grains, especially corn, in 2019 and an unusually dry growing season, US grain harvests were low in 2019. This is on top of low production of vegetables due to the ongoing droughts in Southern California.
What this means is that the “excess” food in the “pipeline” has all disappeared in a period of about four months. While we are not yet in trouble, we’re teetering right on the edge. All it would take to put us into food shortage, is for a low harvest level in 2020, either through drought, natural disasters, an early winter destroying crops or another late planting season.
We’re Not Hearing About It
Should there be actual shortages of food, there would be a need for some sort of food rationing. That would be a function of the USDA (US Department of Agriculture), who would be responsible for putting some sorts of controls in place, ensuring that the food which our farmers are producing would be properly allocated, so that everyone’s needs would be met.
What’s scarier than the potential of food shortages in the near future, is that we’re not hearing about it. Nor does it seem that the USDA is hearing anything about it. Nothing is being done to prepare for potential shortages, because the people who should be dealing with that don’t have any idea of what is going on. They seem to be kept in the dark and nobody seems to know who is hiding that news.
This means that when the food shortages begin to manifest, nobody is going to be ready for it. Government bureaucrats and major producers up and down the line will be caught with a sudden need to do something, but without the time to plan out what should be done.
Can The Food Run Short?
There are places in the world today where food shortages are the norm. I’ve had church pastors from other countries in my home, who have told me about the people they bury, even children, because they’ve starved to death. This is a very real problem in a number of different countries. It’s not something made up by non-profit organizations, to try and get your money.
Are we going to run into that problem here in the USA? We could, but we probably won’t. As a country, we produce something like 180 billion tons of food per year. Of that, about a third actually goes to waste, not ending up on anyone’s dining room table.
The reason for this waste, is that, as a country, we are very focused on the appearance of our food. That began just after the time of World War II, coinciding with electric refrigerators becoming commonplace. Even with their faults, those early electric refrigerators were so much more efficient than iceboxes, that it made a difference in how our food looked, especially produce. No longer did homemakers have to concern themselves with brown spots on produce; it would be consumed before that happened.
With that being the case, homemakers became more selective in their purchases, passing over imperfect produce, in favor of better looking specimens. Noticing this, grocers stopped putting less than perfect produce on the shelves, opting to throw it away and make their selection look better. This then worked its way back to the farm, so that now there’s a lot of food which goes from the farm right to the landfill, rather than trucking it to the store.
Please note that there is nothing wrong with all this food that gets thrown away. In most cases, the flaws are superficial, mere cosmetic blemishes. I’m not talking about food that has spoiled, just food that doesn’t’ look so good.
With so much food that doesn’t ever get eaten, our farms would have to suffer severe shortages, before it became a shortage in the grocery store. The ones who would most likely be affected by such shortages would be our overseas customers, who buy some $160 billion worth of American food per year.
When Food Runs Short
This isn’t to say that it would be impossible for there to be serious food shortages in our country. The amount of food our farmers produce annually is dependent on a lot of separate factors. Should just one of those factors fall short, we might suddenly find ourselves in the position where productivity on the farms is drastically reduced.
There are a number of things I can think of, off hand, which could bring that about, ranging from severe weather to government regulation. Some of these regulations are being pushed for in Washington, without anyone taking into account the ultimate effect of those regulations.
Should the food supply begin to run short, we would first see it as a rise in prices at the store. The only effect that would have on most of us is a more costly grocery bill. We’d pay it and complain, tightening our belts elsewhere in our budgets, so that we could buy the same as we’ve always done.
But there would be those who couldn’t afford to spend more on their grocery bills; those people would suffer. Oh, they wouldn’t starve, but they would need to change their eating habits, so that they didn’t. More than anything, rather than buying fresh, they would have to settle for less favorable choices, perhaps even eating the food that is currently being thrown away.
It Could All Stop Tomorrow
While it would take a lot to shut down our farms or lower the amount they produce to levels where we would see shortages, there is one thing that could shut down food supplies in a day. That’s any sort of damage to our nation’s trucking industry.
The food production and food service industries depend on trucking, more so than many other industries. Without our nation’s trucking industry taking food from the farm to the various processing facilities and then from those to the stores, the supermarket shelves would empty in a day.
As I sit here writing this, that’s happening in Wyoming. Severe winter weather has made the roads all but impassible, with over 200 miles of Interstate 80 closed down. This is making it difficult for truckers to make their deliveries, which in turn has led to empty shelves in the stores. Should this situation last for more than a few days, things could get serious for the inhabitants of that state.
The same could happen nationwide, should the electrical grid go down or some sort of nationwide quarantine be put in place due to pandemic. It wouldn’t matter what farmers could produce then, as it would only be available to people living locally. Those who lived in states where there wasn’t any food grown or even in cities that were far from the farms and processing plants, had better have their pantries stocked, or they’ll find themselves on very short rations.
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