Sunday, April 27, 2008

Eating America

Addressing the issue of rapidly rising food prices Tim F. has this post at Balloon Juice. He is spot on with this warning:

A good argument could be made, then, that we’re better off if price spike now while the system still has some flex in it. The situation would be much worse if the spike only hit later when pressure only comes from inflexibles like climate, fuel and population. Instead of rising, plateauing and sinking a little from elasticity food costs would do the crazy dance that commodities do when inflexible demand meets a fixed supply.
A more decentralized agricultural system--with some returning to east of the Mississippi where average rainfalls are higher--could assist as well. I just searched for a paper I read several months ago about returning a large portion of the U.S. food production base to the eastern half of the country would serve several purposes, including less energy input, water use, and safety from devastating terrorist attacks on large centralized production. I believe one of the other recommendations was for the consumer to purchase roughly 15% of their food from local sources (raised within a 100 miles of where they live). A rough calculation seemed to confirm that this would provide enough income for small growers to stay in business and grow that portion of the food economy at a sustainable rate.

The food system is already broken, and we now have the opportunity to remake it into a healthier (for the consumer and farmer) version of the post-WWII model of centralized production.

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