“The Food Bubble” by Todd Strandberg

The world is steadily moving towards a full-on food crisis. During the past year, global crop yields have suddenly declined. I’ve been watching grain production for decades, and I’ve never seen a time when bad luck seemed to be the only bumper crop.

In my October NM update, I listed seven events that have occurred in 2010. Those reports dated from last summer. We’re months away from a full year of misery, and here are three more events to add to the list:

Last week, the U.S. government surprised traders by cutting stock forecasts for key crops, sending corn and soybean prices to their highest levels in thirty months.

Argentina is feeling the effect of the la nina weather phenomenon on cash crops that are likely to have sharply lower yields because of low rainfall totals.

Australia’s Queensland district has been hit by massive flooding. The devastation is so vast, it will take months is measure the impact on that nation’s food production. The flood has already left nations such as number-two wheat importer Indonesia searching for supplies.

Corn stockpiles are among the lowest levels ever recorded. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a report that shows just 745 million bushels of corn will be stockpiled by August of this year. That’s down from about 1 billion bushels in August 2010. Our stockpile level is now at 6 percent. Normally, we like to keep those levels above 10 percent.

Our problem with food supply is not just the result of short-term weather issues. The global demand for grain has been rising, pushed up by population growth and the switch to more meat-heavy diets. Urban development, particularly in the third world, has steadily taken land out of production.

Grain production can only increase by so much. We have made amazing strides towards increasing yields, but this trend cannot continue. One of biggest problems is limited water. Some of earth’s most populous nations are facing an irrigation crisis. India has essentially tapped dry the water table in its main agricultural regions since embracing industrial agriculture in the 1970s. In China, 130 million people owe their sustenance to grain produced by over pumping groundwater.

Global food prices have spiked to near all-time highs. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization warned last week that the world could see a repetition of the 2008 food crisis if prices rise further. Price hikes have already led to riots in Algeria, Mozambique, and Tunisia.

I recently learned that the survival food business is experiencing a huge boom. The makers of freeze-dried goods have such a huge backlog of sales, they are warning customers that they may have to wait as long as forty-five days before their orders get filled. I recently spoke with a representative of one firm, and he told me that this is their busiest time since the days before Y2K.

Most people don’t realize that mankind has been in a food bubble during the past few centuries. It wasn’t until the twentieth century that the availability of food was replaced as one of life’s top priorities. In the western world, people in our generation are more worried about whether they have the latest and greatest smart phone than they are about where their next meal is coming from.

Right now, there is only a fifty-three-day supply of food in our nation. The shelves at Wal-Mart and other large retailers may seem endless, but that is only an illusion. Since there are no warehouses in the back of stores today, the shelves would quickly empty in any type of emergency.

My study of Bible prophecy has me very concerned about food production. We are already warned that the Tribulation hour will be a time for profound famine. The birth pangs are probably a more immediate concern. Farming requires relatively stable weather conditions, so our closeness to the end times may be the source of our current problems. Since our earthly bread is doomed to be in short supply, it would be wise of us to place our trust in the One who came as the Bread of Life.

“When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come!’ And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!’” (Revelation 6:5-6).

— Todd

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