Wednesday, July 25, 2012 • 9:34 AM Comments ()

Food security

posted by Caleb Rounds

Like most people I have lots of bad habits. Also like most people I find my own bad habits entirely understandable whereas everyone else’s are deplorable. I don’t make my bed (sorry mom). I’ve always thought it was stupid and continue to. I also am not teaching my children to make their beds. Unfortunatley for them, their first serious girl or boyfriend will find this bad habit deplorable and my poor deprived children will need to learn to make their beds and will forevermore botch the operation. I often forget to clean the french press when I’m finished. Ask the boss if you think this is a minor problem. She’ll tell you she has divorce papers on hand at all times in case this goes any further. The list could go on and would get embarrassing pretty quickly.
One really annoying habit of mine is that I fuss over my food. I don’t mean I act like a three year old bitching about how many bites of macaroni and cheese I need to eat before I can have the sponge-bob-square pants cone, but I worry about what’s in the food. I often wonder whether I’m eating real food, food that my grandmother would recognize. I’ve taken Michael Pollan’s food ideas on real food to heart http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/news/20090323/7-rules-for-eating. Of course his idea that your great-grandmother should recognize what you’re eating as food is a little suspect. My great-grandmothers were all yankees. I don’t think they’d recognize yogurt, kimchi, or tofu but they count as real food.
They would probably agree that you shouldn’t buy your food where you buy your gasoline. These days 10% of your gasoline comes from the same place as a lot of the food Americans eat: corn.
This July has been a bit weak in the rain department. According to NOAA Boston is about a half inch below normal. This has led Northampton to ban some types of watering (http://74.94.173.233/WebRoot$/dpw/water/water_restriction_on.pdf). Of course lots of people ignore this; when I run in the morning I see lots of automatic sprinklers spraying water onto roads and sidewalks. But really we’re nearly drowning when you compare us to the corn growing regions of the country.
We are corn people. “We” meaning ‘mericans. Our meat, processed food and sweeteners come from corn. A drought means prices for a lot of our food could rise. At dinner recently my father in law said it’ll raise the price for all of our food. Perhaps. Certainly meat and dairy products will be more expensive because the feed given our critters will be more expensive. Chicken feed is going to cost more, so I’ll have to charge the indentured boarders more for breakfast. If you eat twinkies, prepare to pay more. But broccoli should be unaffected.
What farming practices might insure us against this sort of disaster? If we grew all of our food locally or eschewed monoculture would that help? What about ending subsidies to big ag? I doubt it. A big drought will hurt no matter what. Sure if you eat all local produce, grass-fed beef, free range chicken and the like you won’t be affected by a drought like this as much. But if we had a big drought, you’d starve.
Ultimately, we will be spared any real hit to our food supply because of good storage conditions and a global distribution network. Sure prices might rise a bit, but Americans spend a small fraction of our income on food compared to most people http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2012/01/america-food-spending-less. It will hit the poorest Americans the hardest in part because they eat more processed food in part because they live in what the USDA calls “food deserts.” If you check out this link an zoom in on our area, you’ll see a couple of big “deserts” One is in Easthampton http://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-desert-locator/go-to-the-locator.aspx.
This big drought will hurt farmers, the last people who need another hit. The wall-street scumbags who trade on futures will profit from this http://blogs.wsj.com/marketbeat/2012/07/19/corn-prices-hit-all-time-high-time-to-harvest-profits-in-etfs/ as they will always profit. Most Americans aren’t farmers and we will continue to eat and won’t likely change our eating habits.
The effects of this drought actually point out something very good about our food system. The distribution network and storage ability make it resilient to most insults. Of course a drought in oil would change all that because the whole system depends on that. That is where locally sourced food might help.

Like most people I have lots of bad habits. Also like most people I find my own bad habits entirely understandable whereas everyone else’s are deplorable. I don’t make my bed (sorry mom). I’ve always thought it was stupid and the fact that they made me do it during my brief tenure in the Marine Corps only reinforced that opinion. I am not teaching my children to make their beds. Unfortunatley for them, their first serious girl or boyfriend will find this bad habit deplorable and my poor deprived children will need to learn to make their beds and will forevermore botch the operation.

I often forget to clean the french press when I’m finished making coffee. Ask the boss if you think this is a minor problem. She’ll tell you she has divorce papers on hand at all times in case this goes any further. The list could go on and would get embarrassing pretty quickly.

One really annoying habit of mine is that I fuss over my food. I don’t mean I act like a three year old bitching about how many bites of macaroni and cheese I need to eat before I can have the sponge-bob-square pants cone, but I worry about what’s in the food. I often wonder whether I’m eating real food, food that my grandmother would recognize. I’ve taken Michael Pollan’s food ideas on real food to heart . Of course his idea that your great-grandmother should recognize what you’re eating as food is a little suspect. My great-grandmothers were all yankees (and one Irish dame). I don’t think they’d recognize yogurt, kimchi, or tofu: clearly real food. Perhaps as long as someone's great-grandmother recognizes it it's real food

My Yankee great-grandmothers would probably agree that you shouldn’t buy your food where you buy your gasoline. These days 10% of your gasoline comes from the same place as a lot of the food Americans eat: corn.

This July has been a bit weak in the rain department. According to NOAA Boston is about a half inch below normal. This has led Northampton to ban some types of watering. Of course lots of people ignore this; when I run in the morning I see lots of automatic sprinklers spraying water onto roads and sidewalks. But really we’re nearly drowning when you compare us to the corn growing regions of the country.

We are corn people. “We” meaning ‘mericans. Our meat, processed food and sweeteners come from corn. A drought means prices for a lot of our food could rise.

At dinner recently my father in law said it’ll raise the price for all of our food. Perhaps. Certainly meat and dairy products will be more expensive because the feed given our critters will be more expensive -- at least not the ones that don't get to graze. Chicken feed is going to cost more, so I’ll have to charge the indentured boarders more for their eggs. If you eat twinkies, prepare to pay more. But broccoli should be unaffected.

What farming practices might protect us against this sort of disaster? If we grew all of our food locally or eschewed monoculture would that help? What about ending subsidies to big ag? I doubt it. A big drought will hurt no matter what. Sure if you eat all local produce, grass-fed beef, free range chicken and the like you won’t be affected by a drought like this as much. But if we had a big drought in the northeast, you’d might starve trying to eat locally.

Ultimately, we will be spared any real hit to our food supply because of good storage conditions and a global distribution network. Sure prices might rise a bit, but Americans spend a small fraction of our income on food compared to most people. It will hit the poorest Americans the hardest in part because they eat more processed food because they live in what the USDA calls “food deserts.” If you check out this link and zoom in on our area, you’ll see a couple of big “deserts” locally. One is in Easthampton .

This big drought will hurt farmers, the last people who need another hit. The wall-street scumbags who trade on corn futures will profit from this as they will always profit. Most Americans aren’t farmers and the rest of us aren't likely to change our eating habits.

The effects of this drought actually point out something very good about our food system. The distribution network and storage systems make our food supply resilient to most insults. Of course a drought in oil would change all that because the whole system depends on that. That is where locally sourced food might help.

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