US Food Riots Closer Than You Think

by Mr. Charrington on November 6, 2007

By Robert Felix

I spent about thirty years working in commercial agribusiness. My main job was to purchase ingredients, mainly grain, for flour mills and animal feed mills. As a part of my job, I was forced to understand the US food supply system, its strengths and weaknesses. Over the years, I became aware of some things that nearly all Americans are completely unaware of. I am going to make a list of statements and then you will see where I’m going.

– 1% of the US population grows all of the food for all Americans.

– Nearly all Americans know essentially nothing about where the food they eat every day comes from. How it gets from the ground to them. And they don’t want to know about it. It’s cheap, as close as their local store, and of high quality. So no worries.

– The bulk of the food we eat comes from grain. Although they raise a lot
of fruits and vegetables in California, Arizona, Florida, Oregon and Washington, those things don’t compose the main part of the average diet. Half of what a meat animal is raised on is grain so when you eat meat you are really eating grain. And, of course, we eat grain directly as bread, bagels, donuts, pasta, etc. Milk (and milk products like cheese) comes from cows that eat grain. A lot of grain. And the grain they eat is not
produced where the cows are located.

– The lion’s share of grain produced in the US is done in a concentrated part of the US Midwest (Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri is the center of this area). The grain is moved to the coasts (where 70% of the population live) by only TWO (2) railroads.

– Nothing is stored for very long in a supermarket. One day grain travels (by rail) from Kansas to Seattle to a flour mill. The next day the flour mill makes the flour and sends it to a bakery. The next day the bakery makes it into bread (and other baked things) and the next day it is at the store where it is purchased that day. Nobody stores anything. The grain is produced and stored in the Midwest and shipped daily in a single railroad
pipeline to the rest of America where the people live.

– Up until the 1980s there was a system that stored a lot of grain in elevators around the country. At one time, a whole year’s harvest of grain was stored that way. But since taxpayers were paying to store it, certain urban politicians engineered the movement of that money from providing a safety net or backup for their own food supply in order to give the money to various other social welfare things. So now, nothing is stored. We produce what we consume each year and store practically none of it. There is no
contingency plan. Now for my take on what this means for us.

– If a drought such as has lingered over other parts of the US where little grain is grown were to move over the grain-producing states in the Midwest where few people live, it would seriously damage the food supply of the country and the apples of Washington, the lettuce of California, the grapefruit of Florida and the peanuts of Georgia won’t make up the difference because grain is the staff of life and most of it is grown in the
Midwest.

– Americans are armed to the teeth. In LA people burned down their own neighborhoods to protest a court case.

–In order for riots to break out the whole food supply doesn’t have to be wiped out. It just has to be threatened sufficiently. When people realize their vulnerability and the fact that there is no short term solution to a severe enough drought in the Midwest they will have no clue as to what they should do. Other nations can’t make up the difference because no other nation has a surplus of grain in good times let alone in times when they are having droughts and floods also. It takes two or three months to raise grain, yet people have to eat usually at least once a day, usually more than that.

So, basically, we have in place a recipe for a disaster that will dwarf any other localized disasters imaginable. The important thing to note is that there is no solution for this event. There is no contingency plan for this. People living in certain parts of the US will fare better than others (which is another story) but those who live in big cities, where most of the US population live, are done for. The only people who know about this are those who are involved in the production and distribution of the food supply and there are very, very few of them number-wise. And most of them haven’t put two and two together yet, either. It’s likely too late for the government to do anything to prepare for such an event, so it probably won’t do any good to try to lobby them for a solution. If they hopped light on it they could store up enough grain to be ready, but they won’t. They’re more concerned with their own political issues and invading other countries than they are about preserving the security of their own food supply. I guess the people who could prevent it have bunkers so that they can hide in when the ‘s’ hits the fan.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Desh 11.06.07 at 1:21 pm

Wow, very interesting. I have been working with my economics professor to find a solution to several problems(local) which the government has gotten themselves into, mainly dealing with subsidies. The last paragraph says it all though, it really has to do with politicians and we have dug a hole too deep and can’t climb back up. It’s interesting though, I recently read the following: “http://agonist.org/ian_welsh/20071101/
why_eating_healthy_costs_more_than_eating_unhealthily,” notice that most subsidies are for meat and dairy.

The US agricultural industry throws away tons and tons of milk and other foods everyday, it really is disappointing. The problem started in the 1930′s when the government decided to issue huge subsidies to farmers and ever since then it’s just gotten worst. The problem goes much deeper than this but for the sake of this being just a comment I won’t continue any further. Again, thanks for the great read, enjoyed it and hope to read some more.

charrington 11.08.07 at 9:43 am

yes it’s sad. As a kid I was privy to see the powers that be dump oranges by the hundred of thousands into the ocean just to keep the prices up. Something come to mind about that now. 1. Why didn’t we give the oranges to the poor or needing (of course we know the answer, but still should ask ourselves why in that case it’s ok to watch others starve in the name of better prices. I know this practice happens with other food types as well including milk and grains.

Sari Alger 09.02.11 at 5:59 pm

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