A Fragile Food Supply Network

By Plan B Writer’s Alliance – http://www.LocustsOnTheHorizon.com

(This is an excerpt from the book ‘Locusts on the Horizon‘ from the chapter titled ‘Meet the Beast’.)

One thing which has been shown by the Irish famine, and other examples, is that you can have famine conditions ravaging the population, even when plenty of food is in the country. If that food doesn’t get to you, you can’t eat it.

The American food distribution system is very vulnerable to disruption or intentional manipulation. Your average supermarket, if they didn’t restock every night, would be out of food in three days, less for the more popular items, and that is with no panic or impending emergency, such as an approaching hurricane. The average food item on those supermarket shelves has travelled between 1200 to 1500 miles in order to get there.


The largest mass market food retailer in the USA is Walmart

Food distribution in the USA is highly centralized, with large, mass market food chains dominating the market. For the most part, the local mom and pop grocery store is a thing of the past.

The mass market retailers all maintain huge regional warehouses spaced around their market regions to serve as the collection and holding points for all of the food which eventually winds up on shelves to buy. All of this is totally reliant upon fleets of trucks to carry the food to various stores in a daily, unending stream of delivery. Since the demise of much of the railroad system, except for the large, main lines used for long distance, heavy freight hauling, the US is reliant upon the far less fuel efficient method of carrying everything by diesel trucks.


Another of the horrifying things which the Irish famine shows is the danger of having a nation’s own food supply both priced out of reach of starving people, and also exported out of a starving country to the highest bidder.

A warning of this impending danger to the USA and its people was mentioned in a face to face talk one of our staff had with Lester R. Brown back in 1995.

The Washington Post has called Lester Brown “one of the world’s most influential thinkers.” In 1974, with the financial support of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Lester Brown founded the Worldwatch Institute, the first research institute devoted to the analysis of global environmental issues. Brown also headed the US Department of Agriculture’s International Agricultural Development Service from 1966 to 1969. His primary job was to increase food production in underdeveloped countries.

Brown has authored or coauthored 50 books. Among his earlier books are “Man, Land and Food”, “World Without Borders”, and “Building a Sustainable Society”. His 1995 book “Who Will Feed China?” challenged the official view of China’s food prospect, spawning hundreds of conferences and seminars. In May 2001, he founded the Earth Policy Institute. His most recent book is “World on the Edge”, which the Financial Times called ‘a provocative primer on some of the key global issues that businesses will face in the coming decades.’

During a personal conversation in 1995, Brown mentioned to one of our staff that sometime in the not too distant future, there would be a danger of food skyrocketing in value, and the food supply of nations would be up for grabs on the world market to the highest bidder.

Brown talked about how the biggest change in the dynamic of the food market was going to be China, noting how it was poised at that time to be the economic titan, which, 18 years later, we can now see that it has evolved into. His point was that since the population of China was so huge, a large growth in their prosperity would cause a surge on the worldwide food market which the market would not be able to adequately handle.

For example, Lester Brown said, what if every person in China wanted to eat one extra egg per day? That is 1.3 billion extra eggs, per day, which the market suddenly has to supply. Then you have to calculate the number of extra chickens needed to lay an extra 1.3 billion eggs per day, plus the amount of grain needed to feed those chickens, the extra water, etc. What if every Chinese family wanted to eat an extra chicken per week in addition to everyone wanting that one extra egg per day?

When you look at the numbers, it is staggering. Add that to the fact that a large percentage of China is a sparse, barren desert, and growing Chinese cities are erasing domestic Chinese cropland for industrialization. Meanwhile Chinese food production is stagnating, and yet China’s population, even with their official ‘one child’ policy, still grows at the equivalent of a new Beijing each year.

Where will they get all of the extra food?

They will simply buy it on the world market, and now, with China’s prosperity, they have the cash to outbid competitors for that food.

As Lester Brown said at the time, “China’s rising food prices will become the world’s rising food prices. China’s land scarcity will become everyone’s land scarcity.”

Now, 18 years later, we see Lester Brown’s warnings about rising food prices and competition on the world food market beginning to become a problem. This is affecting Americans buying food at the local supermarket as well as hundreds of millions around the world already living on the knife’s edge of starvation.


The world food supply is dominated by relatively small handful of huge, monopolistic, transnational corporations which often act in concert together, like a cartel. These companies cycle people into and out of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on a ‘revolving door’. This is a practice much like what the large transnational banking interests do, such as Goldman Sachs, with agencies which concern them, such as the SEC.

The global food merchants have their own satellite surveillance and intelligence networks for tracking the worldwide crop situation and food markets which often will rival most government intelligence agencies in the world in terms of capability and efficiency. They know day by day what the food supply and crop situation is pretty much everywhere in the world.

Through a spider web of ownership, these companies, which are transnational in nature, tend to have a top down style of complete control of the entire chain of food production, from the field to the final, packaged food product you buy on the supermarket shelf.

They set the prices the farmers get for their produce, and work in concert with, or even outright control, the local banks and credit unions which control the credit the farmers receive so they can operate. Their people on a revolving door with government agencies, such as the USDA, plus lobbying members of Congress with plenty of cash, ensure that government programs and how they are allocated, like farm subsidies for example, work in concert with their goals.

Over the last few decades, these companies have been gradually squeezing out more and more family farms in the USA in favor of large agribusiness operations, which they own, either directly or through subsidiaries.

Some of biggest of these companies are dominated by a handful of families who have been at this business for a long time, sometimes for many generations. Traditionally, these families have kept a very low profile while making their vast fortunes.

They got into that habit long ago because their companies have shown a tendency over the years for unscrupulous business practices. These practices include occasionally jacking up food prices during times of shortages and hunger, and exporting the local food crops out of countries that need the food, provided that the price is good enough.

People tend to get angry when that happens, just ask the Irish.


A harbinger of things to come reared its head in big way the early 1970’s. An event occurred which was good example of America’s own food supply being sold out from under the feet of the American people by the global food merchants to the highest bidder. Fortunately for your average American, at the time this event occurred the USA still had the strength and wealth to take the hit.

Due to sharply dropping farm yields in the Soviet Union in the early 1970’s, the Soviets needed to buy an enormous amount of food. In 1972, in a move which went unnoticed at the time, the USDA removed certain export licensing regulations at a convenient time for the global food merchants to quietly sell a huge percentage of the US grain reserves to Exportkhleb, the Soviet Union’s buying agency, for a very large pile of cold, hard cash.

The following year, in 1973, the US was hit by the sharpest price increases on food since the US Civil War due to a massive grain shortage. The US experienced a rapid, across the board 23% increase in the price of food, with a 26.4% increase in the price of meat (which is fed grain), and a 28.2% increase in the price of grain products such as bread.

The CIA later claimed that it tried to warn the USDA about what the Soviets were going to do. The officials at the USDA later claimed to a congressional hearing that the warning ‘got lost in the bureaucratic cracks’.

Yes, your food supply is up for grabs to the highest bidder, and it has been for quite a while. Fortunately for us, so far we have usually been the highest bidder for our food.


The growing competition on the world market for food resources, and the subsequently increasing food prices, are happening at a time when the clock is ticking on the American economy. It’s now more of a matter of simple math, rather than speculation, that the US economy is heading towards the most severe economic depression in its history.

What all of this means is that the American people are in grave danger from a very unstable food supply, and from multiple causes.

One of the biggest dangers will be when Americans are no longer the highest bidder for their own food. Then, thanks to global ‘free trade’, that food goes someplace else other than your local supermarket and your table. When that happens, the mechanisms of supply and demand with scarcity start to accelerate, and price inflation will kick in. By observing what happened at the Sukharevka, everyone can see how rapidly such a situation can spiral out of control.

Yes, it can happen here, very easily. There are too many forces pushing in that direction, and few pushing against it. At the current time, you have a window of opportunity to prepare with food prices which are still relatively inexpensive. This window will not be open indefinitely.

© Plan B Writer’s Alliance – Permission to copy and reprint this article is given so long as reference to the original author and the website http://www.locustsonthehorizon.com are mentioned.

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