The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic

June 19th, 2008

The best commentary I could offer is a link to a previous story:

World’s Largest Maker of Crop Nutrients: Famines May Occur Without Record Harvests

But I’ll ramble on a bit more about this, anyway.

As soon as I became aware of the flooding situation in the American Midwest, I posted the story with the EMERGENCY prefix on the title. Just so we’re clear, when I write EMERGENCY at the beginning of a post title, this is my way of indicating that the situation is as serious as it gets. It means that I feel as though everyone reading should consider taking immediate evasive action. All the jawboning about conspiracy, how things could have been, how things should be, etc. are behind us now. You know, EMERGENCY, act fast, eyes wide, nostrils flared, etc.

While the food supply situation has skated along a knife edge so far this year, with higher prices and many countries experiencing food riots, widespread famine did not take hold. In an incredible move, the Japanese quietly eased rice shortages by releasing portions of their imported rice stockpiles—from giant warehouses in Tokyo—into the system; a welcome but one off blip in the big picture. What happens next time?

Now, this growing season, when yields need to be at record levels to avert disaster, what do we find? Floods or droughts in several of the breadbaskets of the world.

Whatever your plans are, I hope that you’re ready to execute them (or, better yet, are executing them). I’m pretty sure that most people have done nothing, and I don’t know why this continues to amaze me.

How can so many people, even those who should know better, be content to hit the wall without doing anything at all to change course? This includes my own family, who lives in Southern California.

I view Southern California as one of the most dangerous death traps in the world. Since it’s such an important focus of economic activity, though, I like to keep tabs on herd activity there, just for my own situational awareness. I can’t get a meaningful response from my dad—who thinks that traffic jams everywhere in the region and at all times of the day and night represent ‘progress’—I emailed someone there who’s about to flee to a country in Northern Europe. I asked if there was even a subtle sense of panic setting in with regard to the food and fuel prices. Here is part of the response I received:

I have noticed that most people don’t even have instinct enough to panic and hoard, and they wouldn’t know *what* to hoard. They don’t cook, they don’t know what a ‘staple’ means. A young woman in my training last week brought animal crackers and cheese ruffles for breakfast, and a box of Cheezits and Coke Zero for lunch. I asked her mockingly if she’d tried fruit or vegetables, she said she couldn’t afford them. I once saw a woman behind me at Ralphs with food stamps, and she was buying cottage cheese, dry pinto beans, and wheat bread, and told her kid to put the Doritos back. If you don’t have that kind of sense to begin with, the current situation is not going to give it to you.

We’re now well into a phase where system maintenance depends on the inability of the herd to grasp the nature of the immanent threat. “Yes, Kevin,” you say. “Same as it ever was.”

I don’t think so. The food situation is far off the radar screens of Joe Average. It only becomes a problem after it’s too late to do anything substantive to ameliorate conditions. We’ve already seen food riots, armed escorts for grain deliveries, rationing, sharply higher prices. And still, I’m mostly noticing yawns and drugged gurgles from the herd. Meanwhile, the die is all but cast on this year’s lower crop yields.

If the herd had any idea of what was coming, this show would be over inside of 24 hours. You might be sick of reading this on Cryptogon, but, it’s worth repeating: Use your time wisely.

Via: Financial Times:

Consumers were warned to expect even sharper increases in global food prices after US officials said that some of the country’s best farmland was facing its worst flooding for 15 years.

Agriculture officials and traders said the damage could push up worldwide corn and soyabean prices, which have spiralled in recent days as floods have swamped crops in parts of Iowa, the US’s biggest corn-producing state.

The warning comes at a time when high food prices are already sparking protests across the developing world.

Corn futures in Chicago this week rose to record highs of more than $8 a bushel on fears that up to 5m acres of the crop could be lost, while soyabean prices hit a record of $15.93 a bushel.

Tom Jennings, acting director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, said: “The price of corn and the price of beans could rise more. If we lose a lot of corn the prices will continue to go up.”

The increase in the cost of corn and soyabeans – the two main feed crops for farm animals such as cows and chickens – increased the price of live cattle yesterday for the second day in a row, to the highest level in 22 years.

Mr Jennings said that the impact of the heavy rains was “dramatic”.

“According to the emergency reports I’m getting, we’re above what happened in 1993 but we’ll have to see how that tapers off as [the rain water] comes down the river,” he told the Financial Times.

The Mississippi River broke through its levee system in 1993, destroying about 1m acres of crops and causing $20bn of damage.

Lewis Hagedorn, of JPMorgan in Chicago, said that the losses were significant.

“The risk of still-higher agricultural prices remains decisively distributed to the upside amid the fundamental need to ration demand in light of smaller supply,” he said.

Greg Wagner, at Ag Resource in Chicago, added that corn prices could take a pause to assess the weather impact. However, he warned: “Additional price gains are likely as the market is prone to overshoot.”

After weeks of heavy rains and low temperatures, the US Department of Agriculture said that only 57 per cent of the country’s corn crop is in good or excellent condition, considerably less than the 70 per cent registered this time last year.

Local farmers in Illinois said that the bad weather had delayed planting by up to five weeks, which would result in a much reduced crop of corn and soyabeans. Some farmers expected their corn production to be down by as much as 50 per cent from last year’s level.

Agriculture traders described the problem graphically, saying that corn plants in Iowa or Illinois should now be reaching almost waist height, but due to the impact of the heavy rains and low temperatures were below knee-height.

They added that expensive nitrogen fertiliser – critical for the plants’ development – has now been washed out from the fields by the rains. For that reason, some farmers are likely to leave their land fallow and, instead, cash in their crop insurance policies, further reducing supply.

11 Responses to “The Best Farmland in the U.S. Is Flooded; Most Americans Are Too Stupid to Panic”

  1. tochigi Says:

    i’ve been quietly saying for the last three years that after the autumn of 2008 all bets are off.

    i was originally thinking about the US elections (sic) and the Beijing Olympic Games (sic) as trigger events, as well as 2008 seeming a likely crunch year for crude oil supply/demand.

    but hte food crisis along with the real estate bubble and financial meltdown are well and truly in the mix now. and as Kevin points out, food is the one with the most immediately severe implications.

    i’ve started to think about brain washing and mind control a bit in the last few months. it is quite impressive, the level of utter dislocation from the realities of the planet and life’s necessities. and i am not talking about people lacking education (sic) or life experience. the refusal to see and the selective filtering out of information that is beyond the pale in terms of “business as usual” and “how life has been and will be” is truly breathtaking in its absoluteness.

    Kevin is right.
    i need to execute a plan to store food and grow my own food, now.
    The time left in which to get properly organized can now be counted in months rather than years. i can see that. just don’t say it too loudly, or the men in white coats will come to take you away for your own protection.

  2. Loveandlight Says:

    For about the past four years, I’ve had this feeling that 2008 would be “the year”. Looks like I was right. {/puts on abestos suit in anticipation of massive flaming} I tend to think the shit will hit the fan hard when Saturn in Virgo and Uranus in Pisces are in fairly tight opposition to one another between about mid-October 2008 and mid-March 2009.

  3. homeydc Says:

    Population *will* always correct itself to sustainable levels, on size scales spanning petri dish to planet. Less painful if we start now. Disclaimer: OWEEEEEEEEATCHEE!!! That’s still gonna hurt!

    :o)

    P.S. “Panic” in any circumstance is best avoided, so, win-win, yes yes?

    Jack-Booted EULA

  4. cryingfreeman Says:

    This article is a serious shotgun blast in the arse, being one of the most salient commentaries on the looming food crisis I have seen yet and one I would urge everyone to forward to friends and family still immobilised by cognitive dissonance. Ignore this at your peril.

  5. st0ckman Says:

    another excellent article kevin. just wanted to say thank you. great blog

  6. ericswan Says:

    Kevin..I’m not sure that you are up to speed on weather wars. Just click on the graphic and see the future as we have never seen it before.
    http://hakkors.blogspot.com/

  7. sharon Says:

    Interesting astrological observation, Loveandlight.

    I was looking through the online ephemerides at:

    http://www.astro.com/swisseph/swepha_e.htm?lang=f

    The last time we had a Saturn/Uranus opposition was 1964 through 1967. Plus Pluto was conjunct Uranus and/or square Saturn during those years.

    For those who weren’t around at the time, those were the years of greatest activity in the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. The Watts and Detroit riots were in 1965, and the Newark riots in 1967. And, for those who remember, 1967 was “the summer of love.”

    Those years marked a “sea change.”

    So we have a similar Saturn/Uranus opposition in 2008–looks like it’s exact in early November. Pluto in Sag involvement is loose, 10 degrees out of square with either planet. The opposition is exact again in February 2009 and September 2009. Saturn comes into a square with Pluto in December, 2009.

    By 2010, Saturn and Uranus are again in opposition, and the Pluto square has become much more exact–in August, 2010, Saturn and Uranus are in an exact opposition, and Pluto is only 3 degrees from an exact square to both planets.

    If I were going to try to interpret these transits, I would say that things will really begin to get ugly in November of this year–looks like right before the election.

    In 2009, we’ll begin to see real, serious economic problems manifest. The issues through 2009 will be jobs (Virgo) and oil (Pisces). Also health care (Virgo) and water (Pisces).

    By the time Pluto comes into square in August, 2010, the signs involved will be Aries, Libra, and Capricorn.

    So, what do you make of the August, 2010, aspects, Loveandlight?

    These are all cardinal signs–very proactive–and relate to social structures, and the desire for independence versus cooperation–war versus peace–and social class issues.

    The last time we had Pluto in Capricorn was in the 1770s, when it received an exact square from Saturn in Libra in November, 1776, when there were significant battles of the Revolutionary War.

    There’s a Saturn/Uranus opposition in January, 1783, right before the Revolutionary War officially ended in April, 1783. Looks like the war was more or less over in January, 1783.

    The alignments in August, 2010 look explosive to me. They are very similar to alignments in the late 60s. Up until 2010, Virgo and Pisces are involved, as in the 60s–and then in 2010, the signs involved are Libra, Aries, and Capricorn.

    So I am thinking that the focus changes in 2010.

    Loveandlight, maybe you could look a the ephemerides link above and tell me what you think. I’m very curious.

  8. quintanus Says:

    yep. I just moved to S. Cal after not working 5 months- the culture is different south of Paso Robles. Santa Barbara is very bad on the dynamic described above except for all the free fruit trees- most expensive houses in the country, where my room is more expensive than an apartment in other areas. It also is a fire risk. The housemates couldn’t even water the zucchini during my recent trip and our refrigerator is filled with beer, but at least I have lots of storage space for beans. My landlord just raised the rent $100 because they noticed they’re losing money on their mortgages, bringing cost to 37% of my takehome pay. BTW, I have a phd in genetics, and other postdocs in their 30s also have roommates or weird situations. If you look on zillow http://www.zillow.com, most houses are paying $700 property taxes with their fixed assessment from 20 yrs ago under proposition 13, but anything purchased in the last 5 years they’re paying $10,000+. This, without going into the food situation, assures that either the market will collapse or young people need to leave the state.

  9. Eileen Says:

    Sharon and LoveandLight,
    It is Pluto in Capricorn.
    There are some great astrology web sites out there that talk about this at great length and all have views that there is a great shifting of the financial sands beginning in November 2008.
    However, no matter what the astrology says, I hope are you considering your level of preparedness. R U ready?
    Don’t think I’m ready in my spririt.

  10. John Doh Says:

    It’s a 3 ‘fer
    Never saw the ptb go beyond a 2 ‘fer
    now its 3 gallons of milk for 10 bucks
    gotta plan ahead :<
    pass the 4 dollar a bag doritos
    pls

  11. Loveandlight Says:

    Eileen:

    Well, I’m ready for this particular incarnation to be over. I kinda ran it into the ground in my 20’s anyway. That said, I have enough food put away for a momentary supply blip of a week or two. (I’ll probably have to share it with my very thick-skulled older brother who never, ever listens and probably really couldn’t do so to literally save his life.) If I end up going hungry and starving to death, I want the cause of it to be the full end of “normalcy” as we know it and not some piddly-shit brief interruption.

    Sharon:

    I guess I don’t think that deeply about astrological aspects, I guess. I just see something interesting coming and think, “Oh, that’s going to be interesting.” And it should be really interesting for me because Uranus/ Saturn will be hitting my natal Venus in Gemini.

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