“Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition.” – Thomas Jefferson.
It used to be that when a drought, flood, or frost occurred, we could see clearly the shortages that it would create. As a result, prices went up proportional to the scarcity. We were also able to pivot our cooking to accommodate the shortage of one item and replace it with another thing. We also used to be a lot closer to the individual farms from where our food came. However, corporate farming, record-breaking droughts and heatwaves in some places and floods and cold in others, lack of agricultural diversity, and supply chain disruptions and economics have created a complex house of cards that’s teetering. They could collapse in small ways in the next few months and much larger and more dangerous ways over the next year or two.
It’s hard to believe that a food shortage may be on the horizon when you visit your local grocery store and see well-stocked shelves. It may be hard to see the actual food shortages and food collapses when it’s easier to simply dismiss the economics as general inflation and package shrinkage. Still, real food scarcities are looming on the horizon. These scarcities will last into the foreseeable future and will affect you in many ways. In this video, we will examine some of the reasons for the food shortages, what you can expect to see in the immediate future, explore the anatomy of a shortage, and I will leave you with a plan you can implement today to stay ahead of the shortages. If you act today, you can ensure that food remains on your table when the store shelves are barren. Let’s jump in…
It’s a mistake to think that the problems we face in our day-to-day lives don’t have global roots. Many tend to look no further than their region or country. Still, as technology has become ubiquitous in every aspect of our lives, from raw materials to manufacturing to distribution to purchasing, inventories and production have been tightly linked to sales and demand. Global networks have sprung up to ensure that bottled water flows from Fiji and Asparagus from Peru when it’s winter in the northern hemisphere. No longer is humanity bound to growing seasons, and a single apple, grape, or computer circuit may travel thousands of miles before reaching your home. But with great ease has come significant complications. Here are just a few of the global problems we are currently facing.
FARMING & RANCHING
Many problems accompany large-scale movement away from small farmers to large corporate agricultural operations. Lack of crop and species diversity leaves food supplies lacking the genetic diversity to remain resistant to blight and diseases. A consolidation of practices leads to either everything going right or the possibility of everything going wrong. In the past, the farmer who planted a little earlier or a heartier seed strain because his gut told him to might escape that first frost. Now, hundreds of thousands of acres are planted with a single genetic strain simultaneously. When it all goes right, the crop yield is impressive, but when it goes wrong, it causes global losses. Moving the dining table further away from the food source costs us ecologically, nutritionally, and economically. It has caused many to lose their ability to preserve or cook food. This has created a dependency on a system that repeatedly shows its weaknesses to us.
We have already seen the damage that can be done in this consolidation and distribution process into a just-in-time delivery system. When barge traffic under the cracked Hernando de Soto bridge was halted while the crack was investigated, hundreds of fully laden grain barges couldn’t make it to processing and export facilities in the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, corn and Soy Bean farmers couldn’t get their products to manufacturers. When the Suez Canal was jammed, and global waterway traffic was seized up, vital coffee routes between Southeast Asian countries and Europe were disrupted, and so were all of the containers manufacturers rely upon to carry thousands of different products. The price of coffee in Europe might not seem as relevant to you on the other side of the globe, but it causes a price spike that emanates like a wave around the world. While these two disruptions may not have trickled down to a visible inventory difference at your local grocery store, they are still affecting you now. The effects lag behind the price increases, and manufacturers cannot always offset the effects with inventory on hand. The Ever Given getting stuck in the Suez Canal or the X-Press Pearl catching fire off the coast of Sri Lanka are other recent disasters. The impact of these supply chain failures is sometimes absorbed and unnoticed. Other times, they can delay manufacturing and a host of products for months into the future. It’s just a matter of time before one of these global distribution systems lasts long enough to deplete manufacturer stores of raw materials. At that point, panic buying will set in and completely strip the store shelves. We saw that with the toilet paper panic buying of 2020, and we will see it again soon with certain food supplies.
Attacks of infrastructure have revealed precisely how delicate of a system upon which we have become dependent. When the JBS meat processing plants were temporarily shut down, a centralized system that was highly vulnerable to failure was revealed. Though automated beef processing was brought back online, the prices still jumped. Meatpacking is a highly consolidated industry. Just seven companies control 85% of beef production and over 50% of chicken production.
In some cases, the meat’s true origin and route from ranch to table isn’t known. Have you ever noticed the labels that indicate a single cut of beef that is a product of the USA, Mexico, and Canada? More people eating at home this last year, delays in grain, and snags at processing facilities, have all contributed to meat price increases. The cost of boneless, skinless chicken breast has more than doubled since the beginning of 2021, and wing prices have hit record highs. Meat companies’ costs are rising, and this is being pushed back to the consumer. Grain prices, typically the most significant expense in raising animals, have jumped over the past year. Grain prices have been pushed to new highs by growing exports to China and poor weather for South American farmers.
Farming, distribution, processing, there are problems all the way across the board and everywhere around the world. The entire west of the United States is locked into one of the worst heatwaves and droughts in history. A study of tree ring records has revealed that the current mega-drought hasn’t been similarly seen since at least the 16th century, and relief isn’t on the horizon. New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington are all experiencing severe to exceptional drought conditions. Many farmers are choosing not to plant crops this year because they have no guarantee of stable irrigation water resources. Other farmers are desperately trying to plow under previous crops to reseed and grow more drought-tolerant crops. The other ten states aside, California’s agricultural abundance includes more than 400 commodities. Over a third of the country’s vegetables and two-thirds of the country’s fruits and nuts are grown in California…and we’re talking about the edible fruits and nuts, not the citizenry, but both meanings could apply. The failure of crops and yields in this state alone will have global repercussions. When any land experiences season after season of drought and dry conditions, the soil becomes compacted. When the sweet relief of rain comes, it often doesn’t absorb into the land but runs off and causes flooding elsewhere.
Colorado water companies have become so desperate to control every drop of water that they have begun to use satellite imagery to charge farmers for manmade lakes and ponds on their property. Some were built over 80 years ago. Already, it’s considered a crime to collect rainwater. Colorado has been the only state with an outright ban on residential rain barrels and one of just four states that restrict rainwater harvesting. California derives more than 15% of its surface water supplies from the Colorado River. As the drought deepens, it won’t just be farmers and ranchers who are desperate. Municipalities, cities, and towns will struggle to provide clean, drinkable water to their citizens.
Not just in America, too. Droughts from Taiwan to Africa to Peru to Afghanistan to parts of Europe droughts are becoming more severe. Water scarcity impacts 40% of the world’s population, and as many as 700 million people are at risk of being displaced due to drought by 2030. At the same time, some oyster farmers in Australia were wiped out after floods. In Taiwan, farmers are being asked not to grow to divert water to the computer chip manufacturing industry. A powerful cyclone in May that struck India wiped out billions of dollars of the shrimp farming industry. Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas flooding right now in the US are devastating agriculture. The floods destroyed thousands of acres of crops, dealing a financial hit to farmers looking forward to a good year of yields. In February, winter weather conditions that blanketed Texas with snow, ice, and frigid temperatures damaged Texas agriculture crops from citrus to corn to sorghum, melons, and potatoes. If it’s not extreme heat and droughts in one place, it’s floods and storms or freezing temperatures in another. Both have impacted some areas. Droughts caused by intense summer heat, coupled with severe winter storms, have almost wiped out olive cultivation in some regions of the Mediterranean basin. In a previous video, I informed subscribers that the price of a ton of olive oil was up 182% this year. Manufacturers will run out of their stores of olive oil and will pass the price increases due to scarcity on to consumers. In recent years, farmers in Australia, battered by fires, floods, and pandemic disruptions, now face a plague of mice wiping out their crops. The pandemic created a labor drought that left 2020’s good harvest of fruit to rot on trees. That led to an explosion of mice. There are hundreds of more stories and thousands of individual stories, but you only need a couple to know that a food crisis is looming on the horizon.
While the world has always had bad weather somewhere, there is no denying that the swings of weather patterns have become more volatile and more extreme. The centralization of agricultural operations has reduced diversity and resilience in what is grown, and the consolidation of processing has made shortages and price increases a reality. Global problems start at a regional level, and what happens in one place will have far-reaching global impacts. Expect that these global problems will continue. Expect that each crop failure you hear about will trickle to you, even across the globe from it. Expect that as news breaks about these failures, existing supplies will be bought up and depleted.
ANATOMY OF A SHORTAGE
As we have seen this year, the threat of a potential shortage can lead to actual shortages. Whether that’s people snapping up more toilet paper than they could use in a lifetime, or it is people filling whatever containers they can get their hands on with gasoline, panic is part of the anatomy of a shortage. As much as people would like to blame the news and mainstream media for creating an atmosphere of fear and panic, fewer people are watching the news. Since January, CNN has shed 792,000 viewers, MSNBC is down 788,000, FOX is down 348,000. World News Tonight on ABC is down 1.8 viewers in April versus January. NBC’s Nightly News is down 1.7 million viewers in the same period. The reality is that people are tired of bad news and the mainstream media’s constant barrage of political division and doom. The panic buying is more homegrown. It starts with real shortages and shipping delays. It begins with real ransomware attacks and actual job losses. It begins with a core failure of the system, and the people then extrapolate out from that.
Their first thought is that they have to prepare for what’s coming. This is where they can interfere with your actual preps. The fact that you are here, reading blogs and watching videos on prepping, means you decided long ago to begin preparing for the bad things that can happen. Hopefully, if you are acting upon what you have learned, you have already secured a supply of the first things to leave the store shelves when the panic buying begins. Rice, beans, pasta, canned foods, bottled water, paper products, long shelf life foods, camping equipment, fishing tackle and hunting gear, medicines, just like we saw at the beginning of the pandemic lockdowns, are all the first to leave the shelves.
The second part of the anatomy of a shortage is the assessment phase. Here people try to determine how far-reaching the shortage will be and how extensive the crisis is. Panic buying has exacerbated the problem, regardless of whether the panic was warranted. Prices go up on dwindling supply in a high-demand environment. When prices go up, they tend not to restore themselves to lower levels. If the shortage is warranted, you will begin to see secondary markets being impacted. Due to China’s consumption, a global shortage of steel sheets to make cans for food production threatens tomato crops in California and Italy. Tomatoes need to be canned within 36 hours of picking. Without the can to put them in, tomatoes can be left to over ripen, even rot, in the field. So, though the shortage is really with the steel distribution, it has a significant secondary effect on the tomato industry.
The impact of the third part of the anatomy of a shortage is determined by whether a solution to the crisis or shortage can be seen. If it continues to worsen with no clear end in sight, the third phase will result in even more panic buying, hoarding, and other shortages. This is where the just-in-time inventory system becomes overly strained. Right now, there may be just enough product x, y, or z on your store’s shelves, and that quantity is based upon years of data of recorded sales. Suddenly, all the inventory is snapped up in a few hours, but manufacturers can’t simply ramp up to meet demand. They have adjusted and fine-tuned their systems to minimize raw materials on hand and to meet demand precisely. The surge causes these manufacturers to desperately try to obtain raw materials. That causes more shortages because raw material producers have fine-tuned their process as well. They are fulfilling their orders based on years of data on demand. Their capability to simply produce more raw material isn’t there because the sale of their raw material is carefully aligned with demand. No mining operation will suddenly threefold its production and bring on millions of dollars in equipment and thousands of new workers for a market demand that might not continue. So, just as you might have rolling blackouts in a power crisis, rolling shortages are the third phase in the anatomy of a shortage.
These shortages feed off each other and are stoked by the rumor mill. At this point, many turn the finger of blame to politicians, but that doesn’t do any good. The failings aren’t at the local, regional, or national level. They are global, but they are not carefully orchestrated by a cabal of super-smart and manipulative leaders lurking in the shadows. Typically, people who believe this are failing to see the more significant global mechanisms driving the shortage. It’s for this exact reason that many fail to see how shortages, droughts, or inflation on products they don’t buy will impact them nonetheless. It’s always easiest to blame the perceived person in charge instead of taking the time to understand the larger picture and the interconnectedness of finely-tuned systems. Are politicians somewhat to blame? Sure, we expect them to have that long vision to keep our lives stable, but we probably expect too much of them and entrust them with too much of what should be our responsibility. Not looking to cast blame but taking personal responsibility and control of our futures is the key. This is why on this channel I recommend and promote self-sufficiency. You are in control of your own life.
The fourth part of the anatomy of a shortage is the political side. As governments step in and try to correct the errors of a commerce system that walks a tightrope of razor-thin inventories and historical demand data and just enough manufacturing to meet those historical demands, it can make matters worse. Rationing supplies here, mandating supplies there, allocating and regulating to right the ship can create more problems and panic. Remember the Ever Given tanker that was stuck in the Suez and caused a stoppage of hundreds of cargo vessels and a shortage of shipping containers resulting in manufacturers around the world pulling the plug on their production lines? It has yet to deliver any of those almost 18,000 containers stacked 8 to 9 containers high. The vessel is still sitting in the middle part of the Suez canal, no longer blocking traffic, but unable to proceed on its journey until someone pays a billion dollars worth of compensation for damages and the week that the canal was shut down to the Egyptian government. Governments may sometimes try their best, but it doesn’t always restore the supply chain.
So, what’s the solution? I like to remember the solution by remembering the acronym GPS. Here I don’t mean Global Positioning System, though your location in the equation is part of the solution. Freeing yourself from dependence on global systems that fail with greater regularity and continue to do so is part of the solution. Find local sources for eggs, honey, produce, meat, even soap. Reduce the distance traveled from the source to your house. This won’t punish the big conglomerates, nor is that the goal. The reason to get more local is that it builds those connections you will need as things get worse. It also forces you to buy larger quantities of products in some cases. This forces you to put into natural light your consumption habits. From that new light, you can adjust your habits to be more self-sufficient and less dependent. It also informs you as to where your dependencies are.
The G of GPS is growing. You have to grow something if you aren’t. If you are, you need to look for ways to expand your growing. This might mean to you to grow your skills. Foraging is a skill. Hunting and fishing are skills. Gardening is a skill. Even growing microgreens in your kitchen adds just a little bit to your supplies. It alone will not sustain you, and many cannot create even a tiny garden, but adding even a little resource to your inventory will significantly increase your odds of survival through a prolonged downturn.
The P of GPS is preserve. Get in the habit of finding the bulk deals. Learn how to preserve the food. Either by cooking, canning, freeze-drying or dehydrating, learn what you need to know to stretch every bit of the food that comes through your door. Don’t throw out carrot tops, but make a pesto. Don’t throw out those over ripening berries but dehydrate them for later use. When something is cheap and in season, think of how you can preserve a considerable amount to sustain yourself at later times. Many families have sustained themselves through long winters and rough times because of their ability to preserve the food that they come across. That bumper crop of tomatoes can be turned into a sauce that will sustain you long into winter when properly canned. Those herbs that will die in the first frost can be harvested and dried to provide vital nutrients and flavors when winter engulfs you. Don’t throw out that bacon or beef grease, but learn how to cook with it before your store shelves run out of your favorite cooking oil.
Finally, the S in GPS is store, as in store up what you need to sustain you. From water to food, your ultimate survival depends upon your preps. If you are still utterly dependent on popping by the grocery store on the way home from work, you are not going to make it through an extended disaster. You have to have what you need on hand or at least enough to pivot in a different direction. Do you have an emergency 72-hour kit of food? Great. Now work on developing, preserving, and storing a week, 3-weeks, 3-months, or more. In the most horrible of tragedies, a 3-month supply could be stretched even further. You might not be making your calorie targets and slowly running a net loss, but you’ll survive longer than 3-months. If you can supplement your stores here and there, you might be able to stretch it even further. If you took the time to dry those berries and can that marinara from the bumper crops, you’ll get even more time out of your food supplies. And do you have enough water stored up? It’s not realistic for you to store a year’s worth of water. It’s not impossible, but it’s a lot of water that most of us don’t have space to store. Given this fact, do you have the means to filter, purify, or boil water to make it drinkable? Begin with the S and store up water to get you through a short disaster, but make sure you have a plan for the long haul.
One easy method for understanding the GPS is to save your receipts. Then, go through them line by line and separate needs from wants. Did you need that item, or did you merely want it? It’s okay to enjoy a cup of coffee away from home, but ask yourself what you’ll do when the coffee shortage comes. Do you plan on storing up coffee beans, can you make the switch to tea, or will you give up caffeine cold-turkey? Maybe doing so now would allow you to allocate resources to the things on your receipts that you see that force you to rely upon a global system that is showing you its cracks. Take a personal inventory of your expenditures and see if there is a way you can get more local with your needs. Is there a way to grow your food or increase your skills that lead to obtaining more food? Is there a way for you to preserve more and throw out less? Finally, is there a way to store up what you need to survive should the systems around you fail? GPS.
It isn’t a matter of when these shortages will occur. At some point, they will. It’s not an outlandish possibility or the thing of dystopian Hollywood movies any longer. It’s unfolding before our eyes in real-time. Even if they’re thousands of miles from you, they will impact you in your own home. Knowing this, what are your plans to deal with this reality? The reality is that the further we move into the luxuries of convenience, the more we rely upon systems that bring food and vital resources to our homes from thousands of miles away, the more of our independence and self-sufficiency we trade for modern comforts. Use the GPS system I outline here to discover your location in the system and to navigate your way to self-sufficiency.
What’s your plan to become more self-sufficient? What’s your first goal?
As always, please stay safe out there.