Touch the Soil News #163
In part 1, we looked at the shadow cast by topsoil loss. In part 2 we looked at the shadow cast by the financial world as it organized humanity to pave the best farmland. In part 3, we are going to look at a shadow whose path is easily recognized.
Grains underpin all baked goods, pastas, meats, poultry products and dairy poducts
Nonetheless, grain stocks represent a barometer that can be followed. Each month, the World Agricultural Outlook Board (a USDA committee) estimates what the grain stocks will be and the numbers are adjusted up or down depending upon weather developments, production and consumption.
The grains included in the “stocks” are: wheat, rice, corn, sorghum, barley, oats, rye and millet. You can see by reviewing these grains that they are part of every meal we eat to include all baked goods, all pastas, all poultry products (hens eat grains), all meats (livestock eats grains) and all dairy products (cows eat grains).
The World Agricultural Outlook Board presents what the ending stocks are in terms of millions of metric tons (one metric ton equals 2205 lbs.). While the actual tonnage is informational, it must be broken down into how many lbs. there are of these stocks for every person. Global population gains are about 70 to 75 million people each year. This gives one a sense of how much food production must increase each year.
The following Info Graphic #1 illustrates what the per-capita grain stocks were for the last 15 years. We’ve highlighted the years that had global food shocks (crisis) that contributed to the number of people starving around the world as well as increases in the number of people in America that are food insecure due to underemployment and high food prices.
All of the world’s top food experts, which give governments counsel, know very well the relationship between grain stocks and the food shocks that can emerge when “panic” sets in. What is confounding about this is that the world has established no minimum grain stocks that should be held in reserve to safely “shepherd” humanity from one agricultural season to the next. It should come as no surprise, that the U.S. has no official grain stocks. All grains in the U.S. are part of the free market system that can be exported out of the nation regardless of domestic need. U.S. economic leaders support the WTO (World Trade Organization) which believes Americans should compete with the whole world when it comes to food and have no preferential status. Oddly, China and India believe different and are active in getting to the head of the lunch line.
Based on the information on Info Graphic 1, the world is less than 20 pounds of food (per person) away from an international crises/panic. Yes, today there are grains stocks of 164 lbs. per person. But a level of 148 lbs. per person is all that is needed to create another food storm. As more people eat meat and dairy, a crisis may well unfold if grains stocks drop to 155 lbs. What has world leaders uneasy is climate change – the new disruptor on the global farm scene.
One constructive thing that can be done is to lobby governments to establish grain stock minimums to be stored near America’s mega-cities. By looking at Info Graphic #1, a beginning level might well be 200 lbs. per person. Of course another constructive action is the decentralization of agriculture. One thousand sustainable farmers/gardeners growing food on 10,000 acres is economically more diverse and resilient than one farmer working 10,000 acres using unsustainable practices.
Following is a short video clip on U.S. grain exports. While the video is a sugar coated outlook for food export, it fails to recognize the frailty of U.S. water and farmland and how increasing numbers of Americans can no longer afford to compete internationally for food.