Living in the United States has made Americans complacent about their food supply. Over the last several years the primary growing regions of the United States have experienced floods, droughts, intense tornados, and intense temperature fluctuations. Despite all this the people are always confident that there will be food on the shelves of their grocery stores.
The reality is that every food crop requires a specific climate to thrive. When those specific weather conditions are not met then the crops just won’t thrive. Too much rain and crops will rot; too little and they will wither. Generally, whole fields are not lost. The little that remains salvageable is what makes it into the food supply. Every time that there are not as many crops harvested as are projected to be harvested the price of that type of food goes up for the consumer.
Farmers have even been known to till under surviving crops because it is the only way for them to collect on their crop insurance. They have to have that crop insurance to survive until the next year, but by destroying any remaining plants they are taking them out of the food supply and driving its price up in the grocery store. They are literally being paid not to harvest their crops.
Detrimental effects on crops eventually have detrimental effects on livestock. When there is less food available for people there is also a reduction of food available for livestock. Meat prices will go up as farmers maintain smaller herds of animals due to high feed costs. Every species that relies on grains for feed will be affected. Chicken will always be cheaper than beef, but both will go up in price although there may be a lag between increases of different kinds of meat.
The overall food supply can go up in price as a result of even one bad harvest. There is one prevalent theory about the cause of more extreme weather and that theory is global warming. Some activists believe that the industrial aspect of today’s farming is contributing to the changes in climate. Fossil fuels are involved in every step of row cropping. These people believe that the emissions from the farming are responsible for global warming and the changes in climate. They really push the idea of sustainable agriculture practices like community supported agriculture. Unfortunately, the economics just don’t support a complete change to locally grown food yet.
No matter what is causing weather extremes farmers have to deal with them. The world’s population is growing, but its farmland isn’t. Irrigation systems may help some farmers offset the effects of droughts, but there is little that can be done in the case of flooding. Changes in the crop insurance program may help in the short-term by ensuring that every surviving plant makes it into the national food supply. A long term solution has to be made if weather in the Midwest of the United States continues to fluctuate widely since it does supply the entire world with food.