In many countries, food for living is a major expense, consuming up to 25% or even more of a family’s budget. Food insecurity can lead to revolutions throughout history, and so is a major concern of governments.
Food production is also something that is dependent on the weather. For example, a major flood, storm, the actions of animals, or other unforeseen things can bring about massive famine. While weather modification is frequently used to help with controlling crops, it cannot stop everything. Truly, even with all of the technology that exists, man must still put his trust in the seeds he has to grow and to do so in the proper time.
In a major natural disaster affecting the US, over a million acres of farmland producing critical crops such as wheat, corn, and soy were devastated by floods:
At least 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of U.S. farmland were flooded after the “bomb cyclone” storm left wide swaths of nine major grain producing states under water this month, satellite data analyzed by Gro Intelligence for Reuters showed.
Farms from the Dakotas to Missouri and beyond have been under water for a week or more, possibly impeding planting and damaging soil. The floods, which came just weeks before planting season starts in the Midwest, will likely reduce corn, wheat and soy production this year.
“There’s thousands of acres that won’t be able to be planted,” Ryan Sonderup, 36, of Fullerton, Nebraska, who has been farming for 18 years, said in a recent interview.
“If we had straight sunshine now until May and June, maybe it can be done, but I don’t see how that soil gets back with expected rainfall.”
Spring floods could yet impact an even bigger area of cropland. The U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has warned of what could be an “unprecedented flood season” as it forecasts heavy spring rains. Rivers may swell further as a deep snow pack in northern growing areas melts.
The bomb cyclone of mid-March was the latest blow to farmers suffering from years of falling income and lower exports because of the U.S.-China trade war.
Fields are strewn with everything from silt and sand to tires and some may not even be farmed this year. The water has also destroyed billions of dollars of old crops that were in storage, as well as damaging roads and railways.
Justin Mensik, a fifth-generation farmer of corn and soybeans in Morse Bluff, Nebraska, said rebuilding roads was the first priority. Then farmers would need to bring in fertilizer trucks and then test soil before seeding, Mensik said.
The flood “left a lot of silt and sand and mud in our fields, now we’re not too sure if we’re going to be able to get a good crop this year with all the new mud and junk that’s just laying here,” Mensik told Reuters.
For farmers, “the biggest concern right now is corn planting,” said Aaron Saeugling, an agriculture expert at Iowa State University who does outreach with farmers. “There is just not going to be enough time to move a lot of that debris.”
To be fully covered by crop insurance, Iowa farmers must plant corn by May 31 and soybeans by June 15, as yields decline dramatically when planted any later. Deadlines vary state by state. The insurance helps ensure a minimum price farmers will receive when they book sales for their crops.
Nearly 1.1 million acres of cropland and more than 84,000 acres of pastureland in the U.S. Midwest had flood water on it for at least seven days between March 8 and March 21, according to a preliminary analysis of government and satellite data by New-York based Gro Intelligence at the request of Reuters. The extent of the flooding had previously not been made public.
The flooded acreage represents less than 1 percent of U.S. land used to grow corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cotton, sorghum and barley. In 2018, some 240 million total acres of these crops were planted in the United States, USDA data shows.
Iowa, the top U.S. corn and No. 2 soy producing state, had the most water, covering 474,271 acres, followed by Missouri with 203,188 acres, according to Gro Intelligence. That was in line with estimates given to Reuters this week by government officials in Iowa and Missouri.
Gro Intelligence used satellite data from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Near Real-Time Global Flood Mapping product, to calculate the approximate extent and intensity of flooding.
Gro Intelligence then identified how much of this area was either cropland or pastureland, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).
Gro Intelligence analysts cautioned the satellite imagery did not show the full extent of flooding in Nebraska, where officials declined to provide acreage estimates to Reuters, or in North Dakota. Nebraska’s governor has said the floods caused agricultural damage of $1 billion in his state.
Cloud cover or snow on the ground makes it difficult to identify the flood waters in NASA satellite data, said Sara Menker, chief executive of the agricultural artificial intelligence company.
In Missouri, floodwaters covered roughly 200,000 acres in five northwest counties adjoining the Missouri River as of Wednesday morning, said Charlie Rahm, spokesman for USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in Columbia.
In Wisconsin more than 1,000 dairy and beef animals were lost during winter storms and 480 agricultural structures collapsed or damaged, according to an email from Sandy Chalmers, executive director of the Wisconsin state office of the USDA’s Farm Service Agency.
In the Dakotas and Minnesota, melting snows in coming months will put spring wheat planting at risk. Gro Intelligence found nearly 160 million acres have already been flooded in Minnesota.
This is a very serious thing that has happened. Expect notable increases in food prices due to the constant demand but reduced supply of food.
But having noted this, I want to discuss a different side of the issue, which is namely that of personal responsibility. Put simply, what are you doing about it?
For those who have never heard of Jules Dervaes, you need to read his website and his story of the Urban Homestead. In spite of some personal ideas and personality pecularities, Mr. Dervaes realized and impressive goal, which was to turn a one-tenth of an acre patch of land in Pasadena, California into a self-sufficient farm that produces enough food to feed him and his family as well as to sell and earn a living from.
Now it is true that some people are more inclined to gardening than others, as is with anything. Some are better at reading, writing, manual labor, technical trades, and so forth. However, this does not mean that a person cannot learn a task and learn to do it well even if he is not particularly good at it initially.
Gardening and growing food, as Mr. Devraes has shown, is rather simple. Most of the work is in preparing the soil for seeds to grow in as well as growing in the right climate. Seeds are miraculous things, and with that proof of the existence of God because within the little thing is all of the code it needs to become a living thing completely distinct from other living things. It is absolutely fascinating that, when given a series of sprouts for radishes, beets, carrots, mint, and tobacco- all things which I have grown -the radish sprouts taste like radishes, the beet sprouts like beets, the carrot sprouts like carrot tops, the mint like Altoids, and the tobacco like miniature cigarettes.
For those who are unsure of their own abilities, and even for those with experience, there are pre-grown plants that one can purchase. Indeed, it is a helpful thing sometimes to grow “pre-grown” plants alongside a series of seeds that one has sewn, as it builds confidence, makes a garden look nice, and helps to get food from the plants a dash faster.
Gardening takes time and is not easy to work in due to schedule constraints for many. However, some plants and even animals do not require a lot of work. One such example of both is bees and buckwheat. Bees for the most part care for themselves, and only need to be checked every few weeks. Buckwheat, a plant that bees enjoy feasting on because of the abundant flowers the plant produces, grows quickly, even in poor soil, and tends to add or maintain nutrients in it, specifically phosphorous. It is possible for one to harvest the seeds of the plant, which make an excellent flour substitute if ground up, cereal if eaten for breakfast, or when mixed with other ingredients such as onions and carrots a hearty supper after a long day.
I have consistently said that the next five years leading up to the 2024 election will be very interesting, and that politics is something that is but of secondary interest because much of the future already seems to have presented itself by the current political machinations. Outside of local elections and in some cases state ones, most of the circus that is contemporary politics will be a poor substitute for television watching or live-streaming on YouTube. Instead, I have advised that people should prepare themselves, including such as by learning another skill.
Looking at these floods and the damage they have caused, and how they will have a direct impact on the lives of the common man, and in light of the current political climate and the season right now that is Spring, I cannot help but ask, in all seriousness, what about a skill such as gardening?
Rather stated, what is more productive- to spend an hour a day arguing on Facebook with people one most likely has never even met, or going out, buying a pack of radish seeds (since they are easy to grow, hearty, and can be harvested in a quick month as opposed to many plants which take more time) and learning to grow them for the new gardener, and maybe when one has time on the way home from work, stopping and buying a tomato plant or two to care for? The work, while it exists, will help develop not only one’s knowledge of caring for a living plant and producing foodstuff from it, but will provide some exercise and most importantly, a connection to the land and growing things so often mentioned in Sacred Scripture. Indeed, there is a reason why Isaiah said that when the world is made new again, that men will beat their “swords into plowshares,” for just as plants grow from the Earth, so God made man from the dust of the Earth and gave him custody to work, tend, and care for her.
This is just one example of the many skill that one could take up that will be useful. I emphasize food for the reasons above, but also based on the stories and memories of my grandparents, who lived through the Depression and World War II, when many people had “victory gardens.” My grandfather for many years until his death kept a garden and while he did not produce what Mr. Devraes did, he certainly was able to do more than what many would expect with what was a very little garden.
People say “what can we do”? The answer is there is a lot you can do, and it starts with little things, because all large things are the sum of little things built upon each other, and each one creates something more until the whole structure is completed. Given the necessity of food, and how people in the recent past would do much more tending of their own food than what is done today, and how food instability can lead to many problems, consider that instead of watching the local news pundit or making “that post” online, to buy a plant or two and a pack of seeds, and spend that extra hour a day working the Earth, for while one does not become “book smart” by doing this, one learns much wisdom from working the land out of which man was made, for all men are dust, and to dust they shall one day return.