Absurd U.S. Policies Sucking Aquifers Dry

By Lee Bellinger / December 26, 2013

Food Buyers Beware:
Bad Government Policies
Turning Farmlands to Dust

Dusty Farmland The well for historically cheap U.S. food is starting to run dry. We’re not talking about federal revenues or deficits or debt ceilings. We’re talking about actual wells throughout the Midwest that have traditionally provided U.S. farmers with ample water supplies and U.S. consumers with enviable food prices. A pillar of the U.S. farming success story has been farmers’ inexpensive access to the elixir of life – water.

Key U.S. water assets have been squandered and mismanaged for years due to reckless federal policies. And reality is now finally catching up. For example, absurd green energy mandates mean that five billion bushels of corn are converted to fuel ethanol each year. USDA scientists calculate it takes 2,500 gallons of water to grow a bushel of corn. That comes to 12.5 trillion gallons of water per year to produce ethanol. And that is the equivalent of draining Lake Erie every ten years.

Except if they drained the Great Lakes, people might notice. So instead, they are draining the aquifers.

Insane dairy subsidies are another factor in creating incentives for reckless groundwater depletion. The government pays dairy farmers to produce far more milk than Americans consume. Dairy farming is as water-dependent as growing corn, requiring 2,000 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk or one pound of cheese. And millions of pounds of powdered milk and cheese just sit in government warehouses. Decades of these government-mandated wasteful farming practices have devastated the High Plains aquifer that runs nearly border to border, from South Dakota all the way down to the Texas Panhandle. Wells that used to gush 1,600 gallons per minute now trickle at 300 gpm. New wells often don’t produce even that much. Creeks, streams and even rivers are running dry in the area. Experts say it will take hundreds, if not thousands of years of rain, to replenish the aquifer.

The Good Old Days of Plentiful Access to Water
Are Over

Because of a seemingly never-ending supply of water, farmers have been planting thirsty crops like corn on land that can’t sustain it without massive irrigation. Now that irrigation is becoming more expensive due to dwindling water supplies – and is likely to cease being an option at all in many areas – farmers must change what they grow or how they grow it. Bottom line: Less corn is produced. Not just this year, but every year for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile ethanol production is forced higher. The resulting squeeze on the price of edible corn (for both human and livestock consumption) is obvious.

A Corn-Based Economy

Less corn means higher food prices pretty much across the board. Farmers use corn to feed cattle, chicken, and other livestock. Food manufacturers use corn and corn-based products in a broad variety of the foods they make. When the price of corn goes up, the price of milk, eggs, meat, and processed foods all go up, too. As a food shopper, you should plan for the fact that government policies have bled the High Plains aquifer nearly dry, which means irrigated, high-yield crops won’t be economically sustainable for much longer. This will have a lasting impact.

What you can do about it

We’ll adjust, of course. But in the short-term things could get bumpy for the unprepared. All of this is why the Independent Living News research team believes that long-term food inflation is pretty much a sure thing. With the foreknowledge that corn production is on a downward spiral, you can take steps to insulate yourself from volatile food prices and unexpected food shortages.

First, plant a backyard garden. A garden isn’t going to zero out your grocery bill, but it will certainly provide a buffer against increasingly rocky food supply chains. Yields from backyard gardening vary depending on the crops you plant – potatoes and onions yield a lot of pounds of food per acre while peas and lettuce yield less, for example. The climate you’re in and seasonal conditions also affect yields. As a very rough estimate, if you were to plant a variety of crops in a garden that was an eighth of an acre, you could expect food yields in the neighborhood of 1,700 pounds. The average person eats less than five pounds of food per day. If you properly store your harvest through canning, freezing, and drying, a small garden can easily get you through temporary food supply disruptions.

Second, build up a reserve supply of long-shelf-life foods. Storing dried goods like pasta, pancake mix, rice, and beans, and canned goods like vegetables, fruits, and meats provides a nice buffer if food prices become out-of-hand or if your grocery store has shortages.

Third, develop contacts with local food suppliers. Buying meat and dairy products, fruits, and vegetables directly from local farmers can insulate you from supply chain disruptions that hit grocery stores hard. With a little pre-planning, the brewing farming crisis does not have to cause you and your family any inconvenience at all. It will catch much of the nation by surprise, but with your back-up food plan, you can rest easy knowing where your next meal is coming from while most people jockey for limited supplies of their favorite foods and cope with exorbitant food prices.


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