Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in Major US Cities

24 posts / 0 new
Last post
Lemonyellowschwin's picture
Lemonyellowschwin
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 22 2008
Posts: 561
Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in Major US Cities

For those of you who think it could happen, what causes it and how does it unfold?  I am less interested in what happens after the shelves are bare than what causes the shelves to become bare in the first place.

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

Since this is something that I think will happen and am particularly concerned about, I'll throw in a few factors/scenarios:

  1. The availability of oil is greatly reduced and the price skyrockets. This, in turn, drastically limits the ability for food to be transported from the area of production to processing and distribution centers, and then on to supermarkets. This food shortage would be because there isn't enough fuel to transport the food.
  2. Same as #1, except that the petroleum-based inputs to farms (chemical fertilizers and pesticides, fuel for tractors, etc) are so limited that it drastically reduces the amount of food that can be produced on farms. This food shortage would be because there isn't enough fuel & petrochemicals to produce the food.
  3. Similar to #1 & #2, a global shortage of fossil fuels leads to reduced availability of electrical power or makes electricity too cost-prohibitive for farmers to continue production, distributors and processors to operate, and supermarkets to produce and keep food available... particularly highly-perishable foods that require refrigeration. This food shortage would be because there isn't enough power to produce, process or transport the food or to keep it from spoiling.
  4. As a last ditch effort to save themselves from sinking, banks begin foreclosing on farms. This food shortage would be because the land is no longer being used to grow food once the farmer gets kicked off.
  5. Due to economic crisis, banks stop loaning farmers and other producers upfront capital for seed, pesticides, equipment, etc. This food shortage would be because the farmer/processor couldn't obtain this season's capital so no food could be produced.
  6. As a last ditch effort to save themselves or because they have completely over-extended themselves, the government stops subsidizing farms and the farms go under or farmers have to work elsewhere to make ends meet. This food shortage would be because the land is no longer being used to grow food because it is too cost prohibitive to do so.
  7. Similar to #6, the government stops special subsidies and tax breaks for large agri-corps for resources such as fuel, power, water and waste management so these large corporations start shutting down or off-loading their agricultural and food processing/distibution holdings as cost-saving measures. This food shortage would be because the land, processing plants and distribution/transportation companies stopped producing and handling food altogether to protect financial assets and profit margins.

I'm sure that there are deflation/hyperinflation aspects that would play into all these scenarios as well, but that's not my gig... I'm more into systems & processes than finances.

yoshhash's picture
yoshhash
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 20 2008
Posts: 271
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

These are great answers, and I agree with all of them, but I think the overriding factor is human psychology.  Once it is realized that there is an imminent shortage, people will rush out and stockpile- god knows I will.  Some people will probably go a little overboard, and this will trigger further panicked buying.  I remember last summer some stores- even in Canada, where we feel somewhat insulated from SHTF, some stores running out of some main staples (rice, flour, canned goods) on the mere rumour that there was a shortage.

jessme's picture
jessme
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 18 2009
Posts: 13
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

I think we need to look at what could happen if one or more of our city ports was shut down. The results would be catastrophic, and it would definiltey put in a kink in the works as far as shipping is concerned, and that kind of think can have a 'ripple' effect..people running out and buying everything in sight becuase there are shortages in some areas, so it can start out no so bad but get worse because of people panicking themselves into a self fulfilling prophecy.

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

Good point Jess, if one of our ports shut down and foreign food couldn't be transported into those cities people would get panicked and start hoarding all over the country, not just those food items but everything imported.

Yoshhash, we had a similar thing happen here this winter when we got a bunch of bad storms that aren't common in this area... people were literally fighting in the supermarket even though the major roads were still open and the utilities were still working. But everyone got panicked thinking that they weren't going to be able to get food or the food wouldn't be able to get to the supermarkets.

Personally, I'm planning a little farther ahead food-wise... slowly stockpiling staples and canned goods until I can get my garden and homestead livestock established. Waiting until there might be a food shortage pretty much guarantees you won't be able to procure enough to last you.

DavidLachman's picture
DavidLachman
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 4 2008
Posts: 153
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

Hi PlicketyCat,

Thanks for taking the abstraction out of the process of food not showing up on shelves.  It is refreshing to see how many different ways the system to support our most basic need lacks resilience.  Gives me renewed energy to help promote and develop the local food system.

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

Oh David, and I didn't even mention natural disasters like floods, drought, pests and diseases interrupting transportation or production, or terrorist attacks on and pandemic contagions spreading through the major food distribution center bottlenecks.  The fuel & money problems are just the tip of the iceberg when speaking about the instability of the US centralized and distributed food system. Just think what nasty hell could happen if something goes horribly wrong with the Monsanto genetically modified corn which is grown on almost every conventional commercial farm, feed to almost every livestock animal, processed and reprocessed and put in almost all our food as additives. Yep, things start to look even scarier when you start taking into account uncontrolled biological threats like that. Hey, look there's plenty of food but you'll die if you eat it... ENJOY!

I'm a card carrying member of the grow local, eat local, eat in season, and support your small local (preferably organic) farmers club!!

DavidLachman's picture
DavidLachman
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 4 2008
Posts: 153
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

PlicketyCat,

Thanks for the update.  Funny how easy it is to forget old time disasters like floods, drought, and locust! when thinking about the human created problems in human created systems.   We all need full root cellars, etc....

MarkM's picture
MarkM
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 22 2008
Posts: 845
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

I echo Plickety's thoughts - well outlined.  For me the real deal is exactly the herd mentality and the hyperemotional responses of that herd.  If the MSM were to outline any of the scenarios, coupled with a report on Oprah Smileabout the same, don't get between the masses and the local grocery store.  It happens every time there is a disaster.   Recently here in Texas we had Hurricane Ike.  I live in NORTH Texas and there was not a generator to be found locally within 2 days of the storm.  I bet food is more important than a generator and the panic will be graded accordingly.

I heard that farmers in California were having difficulty obtaining working capital to plant without proof of irrigation.  Here is the situation for California farmers. http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSTRE52C07R20090313

 

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

Another economic scenario would be if the American dollar or our credit-worthiness degraded, or the government screwed around with the trade rules and tariffs so much, to the point where foreign countries were no longer willing or able to trade with us. No more coffee, no more chocolate, no more Acai berry superfood, a lot less sugar and a lot less tropical fruits.... just to name a few food items.

Amanda V's picture
Amanda V
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 31 2008
Posts: 262
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...
PlicketyCat wrote:

I'm a card carrying member of the grow local, eat local, eat in season, and support your small local (preferably organic) farmers club!!

Plickety Cat

I am really interested in this, especially in setting up a similar system where I live.  Could you please give me a brief precise of the system, or email if you wish ?  That would be really appeciated.  We are just getting our transition town up and running. 

SamLinder's picture
SamLinder
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jul 10 2008
Posts: 1499
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...
PlicketyCat wrote:

... No more coffee, no more chocolate ...

Yikes! Yell   Guess what I'll be stocking up on next?

This is a good thread - I like seeing the different ideas people have come up with. It helps me see the holes in my own preparations.

nickbert's picture
nickbert
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 14 2009
Posts: 1208
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...
PlicketyCat wrote:

Another economic scenario would be if the American dollar or our credit-worthiness degraded, or the government screwed around with the trade rules and tariffs so much, to the point where foreign countries were no longer willing or able to trade with us. No more coffee, no more chocolate, no more Acai berry superfood, a lot less sugar and a lot less tropical fruits.... just to name a few food items.

And I guess also no more imported wines, no more imported liquors, no more imported beers....

I'm not one for drinking much and am not big on most alcohol other than beer, but now that I'm finally up in AK and have a place to store things here I have plans for some liquor store shopping in addition to the other, more basic supplies. Thinking of getting primarily high-quality stuff that's popular and/or imported (for barter and the odd special occasion), along with some of the average stuff that friends and family might drink. I remember my wife telling me that vodka and other spirits were in extremely high demand when her home country went through it's own economic meltdown in the early 90's. Something to think about if you've got the space to store extra liquor.... or if you simply just happen to have a taste for expensive, imported stuff Smile

- Nickbert

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

Amanda - the concept is pretty simple... learn what grows well in your region during each season and eat (and preserve!) those items rather than imported items. You can go beyond this by chosing meats that are naturally "in season" for slaughter as well... lamb in the spring, chicken in the summer, beef & pork in the fall and then supplement with seafood and wild game as appropriate for your region and their breeding/running seasons. Patron local artisan producer-processor like vineyards, cheese makers, custom butchers, etc or at the very least local food businesses who get all or most of their ingredients from small producers or family farms, especially organic.

By purchasing the majority of your food small, local (preferably organic/green/sustainable) farms when it is in season, and preserving the extra yourself (or purchasing the extra already preserved by a processor) you improve the environment by reducing "food miles", improve your local economy, support small farmers instead of agri-corps, and improve your health. Eating and preserving what's in season means that you're eating things that are at their freshest and soooo much better for you, especially if it's produced without pesticides, unnecessary antibiotics, growth hormones, unnatural fertilizers, unnatural feed, and inhumane practices. 

There's some good general info at:

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

Nickbert - you couldn't even get beer from Alaska Brewing Company outside of Juneau if TSHTF big-time.  I'm sure we'd all figure out how to distill our own liquor once the ATF wasn't in control of things anymore. We can grow potatos and make vodka moonshine; but we'd be hurting for most of the whiskey and forget about rum unless you can figure out how to make it with beets!

nickbert's picture
nickbert
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Jan 14 2009
Posts: 1208
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...
PlicketyCat wrote:

Nickbert - you couldn't even get beer from Alaska Brewing Company outside of Juneau if TSHTF big-time.  I'm sure we'd all figure out how to distill our own liquor once the ATF wasn't in control of things anymore. We can grow potatos and make vodka moonshine; but we'd be hurting for most of the whiskey and forget about rum unless you can figure out how to make it with beets!

Well if there's one thing that grows well here it's potatoes, so there could be plenty of vodka to go around. And there's also fermented milk (something my in-laws had me try) which is about as strong as beer, so that's another option if you have cows or mares in the area... the trick with that is having people to get up the nerve to try it. As for beer luckily there are some other micro-breweries and brewpubs elsewhere in AK, mostly around Anchorage (a couple of the Moose's Tooth brews are quite worthwhile) but a few in other locations too. Of course if you can't get the raw ingredients then you're back to square one anyway. But assuming the brewers can get the ingredients (I 'think' hops will grow up here) then we still might be in luck. And if you and/or your husband are beer drinkers, I seem to remember Silver Gulch Brewery makes beer in the Fairbanks area... I had only one of their beers, but it was pretty decent Smile

- Nickbert

Homer: "Got any of that beer that has candy floating in it? You know, Skittlebrau?"
Apu: "Such a beer does not exist, sir. I think you must have dreamed it."
Homer: "Oh. Well, then just give me a six-pack and a couple of bags of Skittles."   -The Simpsons

Amanda V's picture
Amanda V
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 31 2008
Posts: 262
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...
PlicketyCat wrote:

Amanda - the concept is pretty simple... learn what grows well in your region during each season and eat (and preserve!) those items rather than imported items. You can go beyond this by chosing meats that are naturally "in season" for slaughter as well... lamb in the spring, chicken in the summer, beef & pork in the fall and then supplement with seafood and wild game as appropriate for your region and their breeding/running seasons. Patron local artisan producer-processor like vineyards, cheese makers, custom butchers, etc or at the very least local food businesses who get all or most of their ingredients from small producers or family farms, especially organic.

By purchasing the majority of your food small, local (preferably organic/green/sustainable) farms when it is in season, and preserving the extra yourself (or purchasing the extra already preserved by a processor) you improve the environment by reducing "food miles", improve your local economy, support small farmers instead of agri-corps, and improve your health. Eating and preserving what's in season means that you're eating things that are at their freshest and soooo much better for you, especially if it's produced without pesticides, unnecessary antibiotics, growth hormones, unnatural fertilizers, unnatural feed, and inhumane practices. 

There's some good general info at:

Plickety, where does the " card carrying member " part fit in to this though ?  Thanks.

PlicketyCat's picture
PlicketyCat
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 26 2009
Posts: 680
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

Ah "card-carrying member" is just an expression that means I'm serious about it and I put my money where my mouth and ideals are Wink.  Hehehe - lost in translation!

yoshhash's picture
yoshhash
Status: Martenson Brigade Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 20 2008
Posts: 271
Economic Scenario...California?

here is a general question in the same vein:

not long ago, California was in the headline news, with reports that economic collapse was an imminent possibility, with government offices having to close every second friday to save money, etc.  This was apparently exacerbated not only by the overall state of the US economy, but also by drought and other factors.  I considered this big news, even though I live way up in Canada, because so many of our vegetables come from California.

Then it just dropped off the radar- google searches only get me old news, or ones that speak in generalities, without any new updates.  Does anyone know what is the latest on it?  Unlike cash bailouts, which often don't really work anyways, this one is tightly associated with larger factors like the environment, so I saw it as having no real solution other than massive restraint and cooperation, and would be very time sensitive- water later would be of no use to a dead crop.

I also wondered if it would be the kind of catalyst to a domino effect such as what we are referring to in this discussion.

Are they hanging on by a thread?  Is it just being upstaged by bigger bankruptcies? 

Ken C's picture
Ken C
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 13 2009
Posts: 753
Re: Economic Scenario...California?
yoshhash wrote:

here is a general question in the same vein:

not long ago, California was in the headline news, with reports that economic collapse was an imminent possibility, with government offices having to close every second friday to save money, etc.  This was apparently exacerbated not only by the overall state of the US economy, but also by drought and other factors.  I considered this big news, even though I live way up in Canada, because so many of our vegetables come from California.

Then it just dropped off the radar- google searches only get me old news, or ones that speak in generalities, without any new updates.  Does anyone know what is the latest on it?  Unlike cash bailouts, which often don't really work anyways, this one is tightly associated with larger factors like the environment, so I saw it as having no real solution other than massive restraint and cooperation, and would be very time sensitive- water later would be of no use to a dead crop.

I also wondered if it would be the kind of catalyst to a domino effect such as what we are referring to in this discussion.

Are they hanging on by a thread?  Is it just being upstaged by bigger bankruptcies? 

 

Yoshhash,

 

Financial collapse was avoided (for now) by passing the budget. The new budget  includes hefty tax increases on almost everything; My vehicle license fee went from 384/year last year to 493/year this year for a 4 year old vehicle. Sales tax  was increased so now sales tax in LA area is over 10%. There is a surcharge on income tax. (tax on a tax.)  Also, substantial cuts were made - just not enough. These new taxes are going to kill any recovery.

As for agriculture, there was an article in the paper today about the farmers in the central valley having real problems with the lack of water. This is going to severely impact the ability to produce crops. 

I think the worst is yet to come. So now for the bad news!!!. Thats enough news for today.

Don't worry be happy.

http://www.superlaugh.com/1/behappy.htm

 

Cheers and enjoy the rest of your day

 

Ken

 

cowgap's picture
cowgap
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 3 2008
Posts: 16
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...

It is interesting to repeatedly read that farmers will be foreclosed on or that they cannot get working capital.  Many farmers in our area  own their land, are debt free, and have adequate capital to work with.  Not all farmers use irrigation or fertilizer.  However, we all are subject to droughts, floods, storms with hail and winds and late freezes.   We farm 1000+ acres of dry-land crops, mostly wheat and some cotton (no-till).  Our farm was the only one for about 60 miles that had wheat that had the chance to make.  We had a very timely 3" rain.   Last week a late freeze "bit" about half of the wheat.  We have no crystal ball to know if we will make it to May harvest without a hail or fire or even flood.  Like many, we are just hoping to make enough to get a fair return on investment and seed  for another year. 

Ready's picture
Ready
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 30 2008
Posts: 917
Re: Describe An Economic Scenario Causing Food Shortages in ...
cowgap wrote:

It is interesting to repeatedly read that farmers will be foreclosed on or that they cannot get working capital.  Many farmers in our area  own their land, are debt free, and have adequate capital to work with.  Not all farmers use irrigation or fertilizer.  However, we all are subject to droughts, floods, storms with hail and winds and late freezes.   We farm 1000+ acres of dry-land crops, mostly wheat and some cotton (no-till).  Our farm was the only one for about 60 miles that had wheat that had the chance to make.  We had a very timely 3" rain.   Last week a late freeze "bit" about half of the wheat.  We have no crystal ball to know if we will make it to May harvest without a hail or fire or even flood.  Like many, we are just hoping to make enough to get a fair return on investment and seed  for another year. 

Cowgap,

What if diesel goes to $10/gallon? $20/gallon? Farming 1000+ with a pair of oxen doesn't sound appealing to me, till or no-till.

It can happen. We were at $5.00 not too long ago, and IMHO it helped to trigger the tipping point in September. If some are right, the cost of a gallon of gas, as compared to the amount of human work it can do, is stupid high, as in $300 per gallon.

Our civilization exists at the whim of the stored solar energy we pump from the ground by the billions of barrels. Take that energy input away, and all the equations change drastically.

Rog

Jarhett's picture
Jarhett
Status: Silver Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 21 2008
Posts: 132
Rog

Do you irrigate your canola?

Ready's picture
Ready
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 30 2008
Posts: 917
Re: Rog
Jarhett wrote:

Do you irrigate your canola?

I'm still trying to figure this out, but I got a PM with the same question which I answered before seeing this post. If you don't get it, let me know.

Rog

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Login or Register to post comments