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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Our Food Supply is in Trouble, but You can Help

Its time for another post, and sadly schoolwork has gotten the better of me and i haven't been able to post since this past weekend. Nonetheless, today I'm delving into the current drought and state of the nation's agricultural landscape. Thanks to the active La Nina winter, most of the northern U.S. experienced much above normal rain and snowfall, building up plenty of groundwater and filling rivers to their banks coming into this year's growing season. however, the southern half of the country has been suffering. From Arizona to North Carolina, an extensive and severe drought continues, and will only get worse as we move into summer, when once again the storm tracks edge north and the hot and heavy summer sun bats down on the landscape. Heres the current drought map and forecast, courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center
As you can see, the widest extent of the drought is across the great plains and high country of the lower Rockies Mountains. This is bad news for our wheat, cattle, and corn crops, which rely on warm thunderstorms and plenty of grass and groundwater for growing, but all this is in danger. With no rainfall, the water table drops, and irrigation becomes more costly. Aquifer levels which are already dropping at unsustainable rates will only deplete faster, and less net crop output will come out of the lower plains if this drought indeed continues. 


This problem is also running into another issue: Oil Prices. With a barrel of crude oil sitting between $105 and $115 as i write this, it has become very expensive to work the land, especially with the size of industrial equipment and petrochemical inputs to our modern form of agriculture. This is all bad news, but with hardship comes opportunity...

This could be our chance to localize our food sources. If we keep putting pressure on the great expanses of the plains to produce our food for us all the way out on the coastline, we will only do more damage to the land. We whould rely on farms and pastures closer to home, and let the residents of the plains grow their food for themselves first, lowering demand for their land and thus helping reduce some of the adverse effects of the drought. In turn, this can also lower food prices, which are rising globally. Theres different ways of taking action: 

Participate in CSA: Community-Supported Agriculture. For a yearly or seasonal fee, you can ensure fresh produce and meats get delivered or provided for you from your local farms, while you help support them. That way, the distance your food has to travel from field to your fridge is much less, cutting back on the use of fossil fuels (which lowers oil prices) as well as reducing carbon emissions into the environment.

Ask your local grocer for local or organic foods: often organic foods are sourced much closer to your supermarket due to their shorter shelf lives, and they use less petrochemical fertilizer and inputs than typical industrially-grown crops. Many large supermarkets have their own organic in-house brands which are comparable in price to brand name non-organic foods

Eat In-Season foods: Keep a list of what produce are in season and where they come from. That way, you dont have to waste all of the fossil fuels shipping strawberries up from chile in january. Lowering food miles (miles traveled between the field and your fridge), helps lower oil demand and food prices overall. 

It's worth the minor sacrifices to do your small part to help ensure that you get low-cost healthy food without doing damage to the environment.

15 comments:

Team Panda said...

Those are some big problems, i have a feeling its gona be a long time before we get some good news..

Insider33 said...

Is fast food something that we should be getting rid off?

Kingmush said...

I do agree this is a matter of great concern and glad you posted it to get the word out to more people. I feel most people aren't educated in these types of things and therefore are oblivious to the grave matters. I for one will be doing my part as well as informing others.

mac-and-me said...

I am no american, but a good cause. Best luck.

Grafted said...

Very informative, thanks. Def going to try to do my part

ironchefman said...

I definitely try to support local growers, but it is very hard. Many groceries, particularly big chains, have little idea where their produce is sourced from, and asking will just get you quizzical looks. Farmers markets are a great source of produce, except they're seasonal and I'm spoiled and used to fresh stuff year round.

Merkin said...

I remember once I read something similar in another country, but I can't for the life of my remember it..

Xuian said...

localization is the only way we will survive when peak oil hits. It's going to be scary when food prices skyrocket due to the cost of transporting it such long distances (

Tibble said...

CSA is a good idea, wouldbn't work here in the UK though - too many people, too little space

Jellybro said...

I've heard a bit about the drought didnt know it was this bad though.

Danny Murphy said...

The picture Xuian paints is pretty bleak

Furious Caulks said...

Peak oil will be the downfall of us all. This is serious business

Ronald said...

pretty interesting

Captain said...

Best of luck to the area effected.

Jacob said...

Very informative, and somehow I think this relates to global warming, kinda like the Pakistani flooding and the Russian heat waves last year.

Its a shame that nobody in the US will take it seriously until the effects become too drastic to really be able to do anything about it.

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