USAID Top Scientist: “For the first time food production will be limited on a global scale”

by Jeffrey Green

The U.S. Agency for International Development is a government body in charge of distributing taxpayer dollars to foreign projects that will theoretically bring humanitarian aid to struggling regions.  No matter what one might think about the nobility of such a mission, the agency has been much maligned for its decades-long mismanagement and outright theft of those funds (see here, here, and here among many sources), as well as being in a direct or indirect position to enable the use of food as a weapon.

Nevertheless – and perhaps because of such activities – USAID is well aware of the economic trends they need to address and/or manage. So, when their top science advisor speaks, it is essential to hear what he is saying. Disregarding any overarching agenda, let’s see what is in store for the global food supply, according to Dr. Fred Davies, advisor for the bureau of food security and a Texas A&M AgriLife Regents Professor of Horticultural Sciences.

Most people are already aware that major droughts in California and Brazil are taking a dramatic toll on the price of food. Based on this alone, and the threat that these droughts could morph into mega droughts, food prices are expected to double in the next decade. Add in a pig virus in the U.S. and it’s looking to be a rocky road ahead. In fact, even being strictly vegan – usually a surefire way to keep a grocery bill as low as possible – will still be challenging. From a recent article by Michael Snyder, we see the following:

A professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University named Timothy Richards has calculated what the drought in California is going to do to produce prices at our supermarkets in the near future. His projections are quite sobering

  • Avocados likely to go up 17 to 35 cents to as much as $1.60 each.
  • Berries likely to rise 21 to 43 cents to as much as $3.46 per clamshell container.
  • Broccoli likely to go up 20 to 40 cents to a possible $2.18 per pound.
  • Grapes likely to rise 26 to 50 cents to a possible $2.93 per pound.
  • Lettuce likely to rise 31 to 62 cents to as much as $2.44 per head.
  • Packaged salad likely to go up 17 to 34 cents to a possible $3.03 per bag.
  • Peppers likely to go up 18 to 35 cents to a possible $2.48 per pound.
  • Tomatoes likely to rise 22 to 45 cents to a possible $2.84 per pound. (Source)

This hasn’t just dropped in out of the blue either. Holly Deyo discussed the comprehensive problems which were manifesting in 2010 as a global grain reserve crisis. As she stated succinctly:

If the root cause were a single issue, it might be absorbable or at least less damaging. However, multiple factors are hiking food prices and they are only expected to climb.

And they certainly have, with the Ukraine crisis making matters even worse. Beyond the price increases, however, Dr. Fred Davies is cautioning about the ability to produce enough food for a rising population at any price. He sees the consequences as manifesting in earnest within 40 years:

“For the first time in human history, food production will be limited on a global scale by the availability of land, water and energy,”

[…]

“Food issues could become as politically destabilizing by 2050 as energy issues are today.”

Davies goes on to project that a 70 percent increase in food production will be required to meet rising demand and population.

Naturally, being an advisor to a government agency, Davies urges better intercommunication among seemingly disparate groups in order to presumably find better solutions for his agency to employ.

He also made the connection between the consumption of fruits and vegetables and chronic disease prevention and pointed to research centers in the U.S. that are making links between farmers, biologists and chemists, grocers, health care practitioners and consumers. That connection, he suggested, also will be vital in the push to grow enough food to feed people in coming years.

As is very often the case, government agencies are great at pointing out problems – and much of what Davies mentions is spot-on. The following, for example, is contextually accurate:

“The U.S. agricultural productivity has averaged less than 1.2 percent per year between 1990 and 2007,” he said. “More efficient technologies and crops will need to be developed — and equally important, better ways for applying these technologies locally for farmers — to address this challenge.” Davies said when new technologies are developed, they often do not reach the small-scale farmer worldwide.

“A greater emphasis is needed in high-value horticultural crops,” he said. “Those create jobs and economic opportunities for rural communities and enable more profitable, intense farming.” Horticultural crops, Davies noted, are 50 percent of the farm-gate value of all crops produced in the U.S.&

[…]

“Agricultural productivity, food security, food safety, the environment, health, nutrition and obesity — they are all interconnected,” Davies said. One in eight people worldwide, he added, already suffers from chronic undernourishment, and 75 percent of the world’s chronically poor are in the mid-income nations such as China, India, Brazil and the Philippines. 

“The perfect storm for horticulture and agriculture is also an opportunity,” Davies said. “Consumer trends such as views on quality, nutrition, production origin and safety impact what foods we consume. Also, urban agriculture favors horticulture.” For example, he said, the fastest growing segment of new farmers in California, are female, non-Anglos who are “intensively growing horticultural crops on small acreages,” he said.

Ironically, his statements would seem to promote local community initiatives. However, USAID and other agencies responsible for food management and safety have been restrictive for so long that it can be argued that we are in the position we are in right now because of their management practices. It is without debate, for example, that in the U.S. many areas have begun eradicating any possibility of urban farming, front or backyard gardens, or any attempt at community self-sufficiency. Luckily, people are learning where the lines in the sand really are and have been heavily pushing back against rising bureaucracy. When it comes to feeding one’s family, there can be no compromise; it’s a human right.

Regardless of the debate over government intrusion and mismanagement, we are indeed facing food shortages and it is going to get much worse. With this in mind, and given that we are being offered a timeline of what is about to transpire right from the top of the pyramid, it would behoove us to take immediate action and break as much of our reliance on whatever managed food systems are offered as a solution. In fact, the statements of Dr. Davies could be seen as a tacit admission that their systems will simply never be sufficient, so we cannot count on receiving “aid.”

For a quick, but comprehensive guide to surviving the coming age of food austerity, please review the following list of articles and share with your friends and family. Now that everyone is talking about food prices, we have a perfect opportunity to go beyond trying to convince people of what is coming and help one another attain food freedom right now. There are also some very exciting open-source, hi-tech solutions being offered, which are also part of this list.

How to Beat Coming Killer Food Shortages, part 1 (part 2, part 3)
New Research Supports Many Benefits of Local Farming
Alternative Markets, Barter Systems, and Local Co-ops are the Lifeboats That Will Save Us
Where to Find Local Food, Family Farms, Markets, & Co-ops
Bulk Food Storage: Best Investment of the Decade

You Can Grow Organic Food from Table Scraps
Food Security: Ramping Up The Amount You Harvest
5 New Solutions For Growing Healthy Produce Indoors
New High Tech GrowCubes Offer Indoor Gardening Solutions
Lessons in Farming with Limited Space on a Limited Budget
Introducing “The Spark
10 Simple, Cheap Home Gardening Innovations to Set You on the Path to Food Independence

As always, please leave your tips in the comment section below for how to survive the worsening food crisis.

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