Can the US Feed the World?

Article author: 
Fred Elbel
Article date: 
9 September 2013
Article category: 
Our American Future
Article Body: 

The September issue of Progressive Farmer magazine included a well-researched spread on “Feeding the World - Food Cliff - Can a booming world population be fed without overtaxing resources?" The article asks:

By now, just about everyone knows the scenario: more than 9 billion people on the planet by 2050, all ready to eat. With dwindling natural resources, changing climate and an already stressed environment, will the world's farmers and ranchers be able to feed them? Can agriculture boost food production by 70% over the next to years to satisy the world's appetite?"

Reflecting on the role of the United States in dealing with this crisis, Virginia Tech ag economist and former US chief agricultural trade negotiator stated:

Your role in past changes will be minor compared to what you'll need to do [to feed the world]."

The article continues with a statement from Louis Elwell, Chief executive officer of Bio Soil Enhancers:

The world greets 219,000 new people every day. That's the equivalent of one Britan every year. If we assume most of this new population is from Asia and consumes 1,200 calories a day, then one acre feeds 15 people, at 18,350 calories an acre. That means we'll need the equivalent of 14,600 new acres every day."

The article notes that in America:

Even with Today's population, agriculture consumes more that 80% of U.S. water use annually... "Water is overtaking oil as the world's scarcest critical natural resource," Steven Solomon writes.

However, Charles Fishman disparages the notion of a global water crisis, [saying] ..."all water problems are local, or regional, and their solutions must be local and regional. There is no global water crisis; there are a thousand water crises, each distinct."

Similarly, there is no global population crisis. There are 195 independent countries on the planet, each of which manages its own population policy - or ignores the problem completely. In the United States, implicit population policy as set by Congress is for the US to grow its own population unendingly via mass immigration. The end result will be an unsustainable number of people in the US, along with correspondingly increased population growth in "donor" countries, since US immigration policy acts as a safety relief valve for population pressure in these "donor" countries. 

Sadly, Progressive Farmer avoided serious discussion of runaway population growth which is driving the coming food crisis.

It seems that no one wants to talk about the fundamental cause of the problem. Rob Dietz, co-author of "Enough is Enough: Building a Sustainable Economy in a World of Finite Resources" explains:

“We don't like to talk about population, because these conversations quickly go to topics dominated by personal views such as liberty, happiness and life. That makes us uncomfortable, so we avoid them.”2

Dietz observes that whenever society is confronted with a complex problem it “almost always looks at the supply side of the equation and rarely examines the consumption side.”

“It's what we do,” Dietz says. “We think about how we can grow our way out of a problem and rarely consider how we can economize to solve the problem.”

We can't grow population unendingly in 195 independent countries, nor can we continue to use cheap-labor based mass immigration to endlessly grow United States population. 

We'd better start talking about it.


CAIRCO References:

1. "Feeding the World - Food Cliff - Can a booming world population be fed without overtaxing resources?", Progressive Farmer, September, 2013.

2. "Farm and Food: Feeding the world, but not talking about it", Alan Guebert, JournalStar, September 7, 2013.