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  • Cliff McConville

Whats wrong with cheap food 2?

Following up on my last post (hard to believe its been over a month already!). In looking for some data to validate the financial challenges facing many American farms, I noticed that in 2018. median farm income was NEGATIVE $1,548. So that means the majority of farmers in the U.S. lost money last year. Chapter 12 Farm Bankruptcy filings are double what they were 10 years ago in Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.


The Farmer's share of the American food dollar has dropped to a historic low of 7.8 cents in 2018, down from 41 cents on average in the 1950's. With more and more Americans eating out, or picking up prepared meals and bringing them home, fewer families are actually preparing meals at home. Evidently the popular reality TV cooking shows are watched in lieu of actually cooking.


This current industrial American food system is clearly unsustainable - that much is clear to anyone that spends even a few minutes thinking about what drives this system - cheap energy. More and more of the food dollar and almost all of the profits are going to the middlemen - the grain processors (i.e. Archer Daniels Midland), corn syrup makers, food processors, packaged food companies, food distributors, retailers, restaurants, etc. The smaller farmers are going bankrupt, and their land is being purchased by even larger corporate farmers, now some are as big as 15,000 acres. These huge mega-farms are totally dependent on mega tractors and equipment that guzzle mega amounts of cheap diesel fuel. Much of this harvest of corn and soybeans is either shipped overseas on mega container ships or shipped to mega CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations) to feed chickens, hogs, and cows. Those animals are then shipped to mega processing facilities and from those mega processing facilities they are shipped to mega grocery stores all over the country. What happens to this system when oil and natural gas double in price over the next few years? It will collapse.


Will there be anybody out there that still knows how to raise livestock, milk a cow, or grow some vegetables locally? Who will know how to butcher a chicken or beef animal, and cook a meal from scratch. This current industrial food system of the last 50 years is an anomaly in the history of mankind, and will quickly collapse when the cheap oil and fossil fuels that drive the system disappear over the next 20 years. For an excellent report on this coming "Great Simplification", and how it will affect the lives of our children and grandchildren, please read this excellent and well-researched report from the Post Carbon Institute. https://www.postcarbon.org/publications/the-future-is-rural/

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