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46 million Americans go to food banks, and long lines for dwindling food supplies begin at 6:30 AM

Children Orphans Eating - Public DomainThose that run food banks all over America say that demand for their services just continues to explode.  It always amazes me that there are still people out there that insist that an “economic collapse” is not happening.  From their air-conditioned homes in their cushy suburban neighborhoods they mock the idea that the U.S. economy is crumbling.  But if they would just go down and visit the local food banks in their areas, they would see how much people are hurting.  According to Feeding America spokesman Ross Fraser, 46 million Americans got food from a food bank at least one time during 2014.  Because the demand has become so overwhelming, some food banks are cutting back on the number of days they operate and the amount of food that is given to each family.  As you will see below, many impoverished Americans are lining up at food banks as early as 6:30 in the morning just so that they can be sure to get something before the food runs out.  And yet there are still many people out there that have the audacity to say that everything is just fine in America.  Shame on them for ignoring the pain of millions upon millions of their fellow citizens.

Poverty in America is getting worse, not better.  And no amount of spin from Barack Obama or his apologists can change that fact.

This year, it is being projected that food banks in the United States will give away an all-time record 4 billion pounds of food.

Over the past decade, that number has more than doubled.

And that number would be even higher if food banks had more food to give away.  The demand has become so crushing that some food banks have actually reduced the amount of food each family gets

Food banks across the country are seeing a rising demand for free groceries despite the growing economy, leading some charities to reduce the amount of food they offer each family.

Those in need are starting to realize what is going on, so they are getting to the food banks earlier and earlier.  For example, one food bank in New Mexico is now getting long lines of people every single day starting at 6:30 in the morning

We get lines of people every day, starting at 6:30 in the morning,” said Sheila Moore, who oversees food distribution at The Storehouse, the largest pantry in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and one where food distribution has climbed 15 percent in the past year.

Does that sound like an “economic recovery” to you?

Just because your family doesn’t have to stand in line for food does not mean that everything is okay in America.

The same thing that is happening in New Mexico is also happening in Ohio.  Needy people are standing in line at the crack of dawn so that they can be sure to get something “before the food runs out”

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, who has been working in food charities since the 1980s, said that when earlier economic downturns ended, food demand declined, but not this time.

People keep coming earlier and earlier, they’re standing in line, hoping they get there before the food runs out,” Hamler-Fugitt said.

And keep in mind that we are just now entering the next global financial crisis and the next major recession.

So how bad will things be when millions more Americans lose their jobs and millions more Americans lose their homes?

Rising poverty is also reflected in the number of Americans on food stamps.  The following graph was posted by the Economic Policy Journal, and it shows how food stamp use has absolutely exploded in the five most populated states…

Food Stamp Recipients - Economic Policy Journal

I don’t see an “economic recovery” in that graph, do you?

Instead, what it shows is that the number of Americans on food stamps continued to rise for years even after the recession ended.

Sadly, things are only going to get worse from here.  Eventually, the kinds of things that we are seeing happen in places such as Venezuela will be coming here as well.  At this point, young mothers in Venezuela are sleeping outside of empty supermarkets at night in a desperate attempt to get something for their families when morning arrives

As dawn breaks over the scorching Venezuelan city of Maracaibo, smugglers, young mothers and a handful of kids stir outside a supermarket where they spent the night, hoping to be first in line for scarce rice, milk or whatever may be available.

Some of the people in line are half-asleep on flattened cardboard boxes, others are drinking coffee.

Most Americans cannot identify with this level of suffering, but it is coming to our country someday too.  Here is more from Reuters

I can’t get milk for my child. What are we going to do?” said Leida Silva, 54, breaking into tears outside the Latino supermarket in northern Maracaibo where she arrived at 3 a.m. on a recent day.

Just a couple of days ago, I wrote about how the number of Americans living in concentrated areas of high poverty has doubled since the year 2000.

In case you are wondering, that is not a sign of progress.

Just because you might live in a comfortable neighborhood that does not give you the right to look down on those that are suffering.

And when you add increasing racial tensions to the mix, it becomes easier to understand why there is so much anger and frustration in our urban areas.  According to Business Insider, the percentage of Americans that consider race relations to be in good shape in this nation has dropped precipitously…

Over the last two years there has been a 23% drop in the number of Americans who see relations between blacks and whites as “very good” or “somewhat good.”

Today, only 47% of Americans see black-white relations positively, according to a Gallup poll, the lowest it has been in the last 14 years.

The poll also showed that blacks see the relations more positively (51%) than whites (45%), but both percentages experienced sharp declines in the last two years.

All of the ingredients are there for civil unrest to erupt in cities all over the United States.

When the next major economic downturn happens, anger and frustration are going to flare to extremely dangerous levels.  At this point, it will not take much to set things off.

Desperate people do desperate things, and desperation is rising even now in this country.

So how did things get so bad?

Stupid decisions lead to stupid results, and very soon we will start to pay a very great price for decades of incredibly stupid decisions.

Low Inflation? The Price Of Ground Beef Has Risen 17 Percent Over The Past Year

Inflation Public DomainThanks to the Federal Reserve, the middle class is slowly being suffocated by rising food prices.  Every single dollar in your wallet is constantly becoming less valuable because of the inflation the Fed systematically creates.  And if you try to build wealth by saving money and earning interest on it, you still lose because thanks to the Federal Reserve’s near zero interest rate policies banks pay next to nothing on savings accounts.  The Federal Reserve wants you to either spend your money or to put it in the giant casino that we call the stock market.  But when Americans spend their paychecks they are finding that they don’t stretch as far as they once did.  The cost of living continues to rise at a much faster pace than wages are rising, and this is especially true when it comes to the price of food.

Someone that I know wrote to me today and let me know that she had to shut down the food pantry that she had been running for the poor for so many years.  It isn’t that she didn’t want to help the poor anymore.  It was that she just couldn’t deal with the rising food prices any longer.  Now she is just doing the best that she can to survive herself.

Perhaps you have also noticed that food prices have gotten pretty crazy lately.  In particular, meat prices have become absolutely obscene.  For example, the average price of ground beef has risen to a new record high of over $4.09 a pound.  Over the past twelve months, that works out to a whopping 17 percent increase…

The average price for a pound of ground beef climbed to another record high–$4.096 per pound–in the United States in September, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In August, according to BLS, the average price for a pound of all types of ground beef topped $4 for the first time–hitting $4.013. In September, the average price jumped .083 cents, an increase of 2.1 percent in one month.

A year ago, in September 2013, the average price for a pound of ground beef was $3.502 per pound. Since then, it has climbed 59.4 cents–or about 17 percent in one year.

The “intellectuals” over at the Federal Reserve insist that “a little bit of inflation” is good for an economy, but the truth is that inflation slowly robs us of our buying power.

In a previous article, I shared a chart that showed how food inflation has risen dramatically since the year 2000.  For this article, I wanted to show how food inflation has risen since the 1970s.  As you can see, the rise in food prices has been absolutely relentless for more than 40 years…

Food Inflation 2014

If our paychecks were going up at the same rate or even faster that would be okay.

But they aren’t.

In fact, CNN is reporting that our paychecks have fallen back to 1995 levels…

Americans also don’t feel any better off. While more people may have jobs, they aren’t bringing home fatter paychecks. Wages and income have remained stagnant for years, making it tough for folks even though inflation is low. Median household income, which stood at $51,939 last year, is back to 1995 levels.

Consumers expect a median income boost of 1.1% over the next year, Curtin said. But that won’t keep up with their inflation expectations of 2.8%.

“American households, on average, are still struggling with their living standards slowly eroding,” he said.

This is one of the primary reasons why the middle class is disappearing in America.

The purchasing power of our dollars is continually diminishing.

And this could be just the beginning.  Right now, severe drought is affecting some of the most important agricultural areas around the globe.  Most people are aware of the nightmarish drought in California, but did you know that things in Brazil are even worse?  Brazil is one of the most important food exporters in the world, and so they definitely need our prayers.

In addition, a “black swan event” such as a worldwide explosion of the Ebola pandemic could quickly drive food prices into the stratosphere.

Just this week, we learned that food prices in the Ebola-stricken regions of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone have already risen by an average of 24 percent

Infection rates in the food-producing zones of Kenema and Kailahun in Sierra Leone, Lofa and Bong County in Liberia and GuDeckDedou in Guinea are among the highest in the region. Hundreds of farmers have died.

The three governments quarantined districts and restricted movements to contain the virus’ spread. But those measures also disrupted markets and led to food scarcity and panic buying, further pushing up prices, WFP and the Food and Agriculture Organization have said.

“Prices have risen by an average of 24 percent,” said WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs, adding an assessment of major markets showed the price of basic commodities was rising in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and in neighboring Senegal.

If you have been storing up food, I think that you will be very happy with your decision in the long run.

Without a doubt, food prices are only going to be going up from here.

But the Federal Reserve continues to insist that inflation is under control.

One of the ways that they make the “official numbers” look good is by playing accounting games.  They regularly change the way that inflation is calculated in order keep everyone calm.

You don’t have to take my word for it.  Posted below is an excerpt from an article by Mike Bryan, a vice president and senior economist in the Atlanta Fed’s research department…

The Economist retells a conversation with Stephen Roach, who in the 1970s worked for the Federal Reserve under Chairman Arthur Burns. Roach remembers that when oil prices surged around 1973, Burns asked Federal Reserve Board economists to strip those prices out of the CPI “to get a less distorted measure. When food prices then rose sharply, they stripped those out too—followed by used cars, children’s toys, jewellery, housing and so on, until around half of the CPI basket was excluded because it was supposedly ‘distorted'” by forces outside the control of the central bank. The story goes on to say that, at least in part because of these actions, the Fed failed to spot the breadth of the inflationary threat of the 1970s.

I have a similar story. I remember a morning in 1991 at a meeting of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland’s board of directors. I was welcomed to the lectern with, “Now it’s time to see what Mike is going to throw out of the CPI this month.” It was an uncomfortable moment for me that had a lasting influence. It was my motivation for constructing the Cleveland Fed’s median CPI.

I am a reasonably skilled reader of a monthly CPI release. And since I approached each monthly report with a pretty clear idea of what the actual rate of inflation was, it was always pretty easy for me to look across the items in the CPI market basket and identify any offending—or “distorted”—price change. Stripping these items from the price statistic revealed the truth—and confirmed that I was right all along about the actual rate of inflation.

It is all a game to them.

It is all about getting to the “right number” to release to the public.

But anyone that goes to the grocery store knows what has been happening to food prices.

The next time you get to the checkout register and you feel tempted to ask the cashier what organ you should donate to pay for your groceries, please keep in mind that it is not the fault of the cashier.

Instead, there is one entity that you should blame.

Blame the Federal Reserve – their policies are slowly pushing the middle class into oblivion.

Inflation? Only If You Look At Food, Water, Gas, Electricity And Everything Else

Wheelbarrow of MoneyHave you noticed that prices are going up rapidly?  If so, you are certainly not alone.  But Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen, the Obama administration and the mainstream media would have us believe that inflation is completely under control and exactly where it should be.  Perhaps if the highly manipulated numbers that they quote us were real, everything would be fine.  But of course the way that the inflation rate is calculated has been changed more than 20 times since the 1970s, and at this point it bears so little relation to reality that it is essentially meaningless.  Anyone that has to regularly pay for food, water, gas, electricity or anything else knows that inflation is too high.  In fact, if inflation was calculated the same way that it was back in 1980, the inflation rate would be close to 10 percent right now.

But you would never know that listening to Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen.  In the video posted below, you can listen to her telling the media that there is absolutely nothing to be concerned about…

And it is really hard to get too upset with Janet Yellen.

After all, she reminds many people of a sweet little grandmother.

But the reality of the matter is that she is simply not telling us the truth.  Everywhere we look, prices are aggressively moving higher.

Just the other day, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that the price index for meat, poultry, fish, and eggs has just soared to a new all-time high.

This is something that I have repeatedly warned would happen.  Just check out this article and this article.

And it isn’t just meat prices that are going up.  One of the largest coffee producers in the entire world just announced that it is going to be raising coffee prices by 9 percent

It took the Fed long enough but finally even it succumbed to the reality of surging food prices when, as we reported previously, it hiked cafeteria prices at ground zero: the cafeteria of the Chicago Fed, stating that “prices continue to rise between 3% and 33%.” So with input costs rising across the board not just for the Fed, but certainly for food manufacturers everywhere, it was only a matter of time before the latter also threw in the towel and followed in the Fed’s footsteps. Which is what happened earlier today when J.M. Smucker Co. said it raised the prices on most of its coffee products by an average of 9% to reflect higher green-coffee costs.

Not that coffee isn’t expensive enough already.  It absolutely stuns me that some people are willing to pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee.

I still remember the days when you could get a cup of coffee for 25 cents.

Also, I can’t get over how expensive groceries are becoming these days.  Earlier this month I took my wife over to the grocery store to do some shopping.  We are really ramping up our food storage this summer, and so we grabbed as much stuff on sale as we could find.  When we got our cart to the register, I was expecting the bill to be large, but I didn’t expect it to be over 300 dollars.

And remember, this was just for a single shopping cart and we had consciously tried to grab things that were significantly reduced from regular price.

I almost felt like asking the cashier which organ I should donate to pay the bill.

Sadly, this is just the beginning.  Food prices are eventually going to go much, much higher than this.

Also, you should get ready to pay substantially more for water as well.

According to CNBC, one recent report warned that “your water bill will likely increase” in the coming months…

U.S. water utilities face a critical economic squeeze, according to a new report—and that will likely mean higher prices at the water tap for consumers.

A survey by water-engineering firm Black & Veatch of 368 water utility companies across the country shows that 66 percent of them are not generating enough revenue to cover their costs.

To make up for the financial shortfall, prices for water are heading upward, said Michael Orth, one of the co-authors of the report and senior vice president at Black & Veatch.

“People will have to pay more for water to make up the falling revenues,” he said. “And that’s likely to be more than the rate of inflation.”

Of even greater concern is what is happening to gas prices.

According to Bloomberg, the price of gasoline hasn’t been this high at this time of the year for six years…

Gasoline in the U.S. climbed this week, boosted by a surge in oil, and is expected to reach the highest level for this time of year since 2008.

The pump price averaged $3.686 a gallon yesterday, up 1.2 cents from a week earlier, data posted on the Energy Information Administration’s website late yesterday show. Oil, which accounts for two-thirds of the retail price of gasoline, gained $2.49 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange in the same period and $4.88 in the month ended yesterday.

The jump in crude, driven by concern that the crisis in Iraq will disrupt supplies, may boost pump prices by 10 cents a gallon at a time when they normally drop, according to forecasts including one from the EIA.

And the conflicts in Iraq, Ukraine and elsewhere could potentially send gas prices screaming far higher.

In fact, T. Boone Pickens recently told CNBC that if Baghdad falls to ISIS that the price of a barrel of oil could potentially hit $200.

Of course the big oil companies are not exactly complaining about this.  This week energy stocks are hitting record highs, and further escalation of the conflict in Iraq will probably send them even higher.

Meanwhile, a “bipartisan Senate proposal” (that means both Democrats and Republicans) would raise the gas tax by 12 cents a gallon over the next two years.

Our politicians have such good timing, don’t they?

Ugh.

And our electricity rates are going up too.  The electricity price index just set a brand new record high and there are no signs of relief on the horizon…

The electricity price index and the average price for a kilowatthour (KWH) of electricity both hit records for May, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The average price for a KWH hit 13.6 cents during the month, up about 3.8 percent from 13.1 cents in May 2013.

The seasonally adjusted electricity price index rose from 201.431 in May 2013 to 208.655 in May 2014—an increase of about 3.6 percent.

If our paychecks were increasing at the same rate as inflation, perhaps most families would be able to weather all of this.

Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.

As I wrote about recently, median household income in the U.S. is now about 7 percent lower than it was in the year 2000 after adjusting for inflation.

And if realistic inflation numbers were used instead of the government-manipulated ones, it would look a lot worse than that.

Inflation is a hidden tax that all of us pay, and it is systematically eviscerating the middle class.

So what are prices like in your neck of the woods?

Is your family feeling the pain of inflation?

Please feel free to share your thoughts by posting a comment below…

Are You Ready For The Price Of Food To More Than Double By The End Of This Decade?

Supermarket - Photo by AbrahamiDo you think that the price of food is high now?  Just wait.  If current trends continue, many of the most common food items that Americans buy will cost more than twice as much by the end of this decade.  Global demand for food continues to rise steadily as crippling droughts ravage key agricultural regions all over the planet.  You see, it isn’t just the multi-year California drought that is affecting food prices.  Down in Brazil (one of the leading exporters of food in the world), the drought has gotten so bad that 142 cities were rationing water at one point earlier this year.  And outbreaks of disease are also having a significant impact on our food supply.  A devastating pig virus that has never been seen in the U.S. before has already killed up to 6 million pigs.  Even if nothing else bad happens (and that is a very questionable assumption to make), our food prices are going to be moving aggressively upward for the foreseeable future.  But what if something does happen?  In recent years, global food reserves have dipped to extremely low levels, and a single major global event (war, pandemic, terror attack, planetary natural disaster, etc.) could create an unprecedented global food crisis very rapidly.

A professor at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University named Timothy Richards has calculated what the drought in California is going to do to produce prices at our supermarkets in the near future.  His projections are quite sobering

  • Avocados likely to go up 17  to 35 cents to as much as $1.60 each.
  • Berries likely to rise 21 to 43 cents to as much as $3.46 per clamshell container.
  • Broccoli likely to go up 20 to 40 cents to a possible $2.18 per pound.
  • Grapes likely to rise 26 to 50 cents to a possible $2.93 per pound.
  • Lettuce likely to rise 31 to 62 cents to as much as $2.44 per head.
  • Packaged salad likely to go up 17 to 34 cents to a possible $3.03 per bag.
  • Peppers likely to go up 18 to 35 cents to a possible $2.48 per pound.
  • Tomatoes likely to rise 22 to 45 cents to a possible $2.84 per pound.

So what happens if the drought does not end any time soon?

Scientist Lynn Ingram, who has studied the climate history of the state of California extensively, told CBS News that we could potentially be facing “a century-long megadrought” in California.  If that does indeed turn out to be the case, we could be facing huge price increases for produce year after year.

And it isn’t just crops that are grown in the United States that we need to be concerned about.  As NBC News recently reported, the price of cocoa is absolutely soaring and that is going to mean much higher prices for chocolate…

As cocoa prices surge to near-record highs on demand for emerging markets, chocoholics brace for a hike in price – and maybe even a different taste, as chocolate makers hunt out cheaper ingredients.

Cocoa futures are up 10 percent so far this year, hitting almost £1,900 on ($3,195) a ton in March. Last year prices rose 20 percent.

In fact, experts are now warning that chocolate may soon become a “high-end luxury item” because it is becoming so expensive.

Meat prices are also starting to spiral out of control.

A virus known as porcine epidemic diarrhea has pushed pork prices up to new all-time record highs.  It has already spread to 27 states, and as I mentioned above, it has already killed up to 6 million pigs.  It is being projected that U.S. pork production will decline by about 7 percent this year as a result, and Americans could end up paying up to 20 percent more for pork by the end of the year.

The price of beef has also soared to a brand new all-time record high.  Due to the drought that never seems to let up in the western half of the country, the total size of the U.S. cattle herd has been declining for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that is has been since 1951.

If the overall price of food in this country increases by just an average of a little more than 12 percent a year, it will double by the end of this decade.

What would you do if you suddenly walked into the grocery store and everything was twice as much?

That is a frightening thing to think about.

Meanwhile, all of our other bills just keep going up as well.  For example, we just learned that the price of electricity hit a brand new all-time record high for the month of March.

If our incomes were keeping up with all of these price increases, that would be one thing.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  As I wrote about earlier this week, the quality of our jobs continues to go down and more Americans fall out of the middle class every single day.

According to CNBC, there are hundreds of thousands of Americans with college degrees that are working for minimum wage right now…

While a college degree might help get a job, it doesn’t necessarily mean a good salary. According to a report released last month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some 260,000 workers with bachelor’s degrees and 200,000 workers with associate’s degrees are making the minimum wage.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, and the minimum wage for tipped workers is $2.13 an hour. Some cities and states have recently raised their minimum wage, but the BLS report defines only those making $7.25 an hour or less as “minimum wage workers.”

And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States has dropped for five years in a row.

This is why so many families are financially stressed these days.  The cost of living is going up at a steady pace, but for the most part our paychecks are not keeping up.  Average Americans are having to stretch their money farther than ever, and many families have reached the breaking point.

So what is going on in your neck of the woods?  Are you starting to see prices rise at the grocery stores where you live?  Please feel free to join the discussion by leaving a comment below…

31 Percent Of All Food In America Is Wasted – And Why That Is About To End

Burger And Fries - Photo by Ewan MunroAccording to a stunning new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, nearly a third of all food produced in the United States gets wasted.  We are probably the most wasteful society in the history of the planet, and we are also one of the most gluttonous.  More than 35 percent of all Americans are considered to be officially “obese” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Unfortunately, this era of gluttony and taking food for granted will soon be coming to an end.  Thanks to crippling drought in key growing areas and other extremely bizarre weather patterns, a massive food crisis is beginning to emerge all over the planet.  If you don’t think that this is going to affect you, then you simply are not paying attention.  Approximately half of all produce grown in the United States comes from the state of California, and right now California is suffering through the worst stretch of drought on record.  Food prices are going to start soaring, and that is going to affect the household budget of every family in America.

Needless to say, a time is coming when Americans will not waste food so recklessly.  But for the moment, we still have a tremendous amount of disrespect for the value of food.  According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, we waste a staggering 133 billion pounds of food each year

Nearly a third of the 430 billion pounds of food produced for Americans to eat is wasted, a potential catastrophe for landfills and a wake-up call to officials scrambling to feed the hungry, according to a stunning new report from the Department of Agriculture.

The just-issued report revealed that in 2010, 31 percent, or 133 billion pounds, of food produced for Americans to eat was wasted, either molded or improperly cooked, suffered “natural shrinkage” due to moisture loss, or because people became disinterested in what they purchased.

Not that we need to stuff any more food into our mouths.  As I mentioned above, we have an epidemic of obesity in this nation.  In fact, the CDC says that 35 percent of the entire population is “obese”…

Meanwhile, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of US adults (35.7 percent) are obese, which is perhaps the best argument that Americans can offset a large part of the food waste problem by simply eating less. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the US was $147 billion in 2008; the costs of providing medical assistance for individuals who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight, thereby placing an enormous strain on healthcare costs.

Since we are such gluttons and we are so incredibly wasteful, we should have plenty of food to share with those in need, right?

Unfortunately, we are also extremely greedy and greatly lacking in compassion.

As I have written about previously, feeding the homeless has been banned in cities all over the nation, and other cities have passed regulations that greatly discourage the feeding of the homeless

Feeding the homeless is about to get harder as a new policy is set to begin this Saturday, Feb. 15, in Columbia, SC. Charities and non-profits will be required to pay a fee and obtain a permit 15 days in advance in order to feed the homeless in parks.

One impacted charity that was interviewed by the Free Times, Food Not Bombs, has been serving food to the homeless in Finlay Park every Sunday for 12 years. The group’s organizer, Judith Turnipseed, noted that the group has an impeccable track record and always tidies up after the meal. But with the new crackdown, Food Not Bombs will have to pay at least $120 per week for the right to feed the homeless.

Since the Columbia City Council approved its exile plan in August, the city has been trying to herd its homeless people to a shelter on the outskirts of town and keep them away from downtown. If charities continue to provide food in downtown parks, the thinking goes, it will allow homeless people to continue to live downtown, rather than being forced to leave.

What is wrong with us?

While we stuff our faces with more french fries and chicken wings, we have an appalling lack of compassion for those that are not able to take care of themselves.

Perhaps we deserve what is coming.

The horrible drought that never seems to end is rapidly turning much of the western half of the country into a barren wasteland.

You can see some incredible before and after photos of the drought in California right here.

If a miracle does not happen, the upcoming growing season is going to be absolutely disastrous.  As I have written about previously, California farmers have already decided to allow half a million acres of farmland to sit idle this year because of the extremely dry conditions.

And it certainly does not help that the government has decided to cut off water supplies to many of the farmers.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Holly Deyo

Government has lost its mind. It is no more evident than their decision last week to cut off water to America’s food basket. Squeezed by the worst-ever drought in the state’s history, California is dying of thirst. Crushing news was delivered to farmer’s that no water would be coming from the Federal government. This dreaded decision was compounded by the Sierra Mountains getting just 25% of normal snowpack. There is no water to replenish already dangerously low reservoirs, so no water for farmers.

Needless to say, there are a lot of farmers that are going to be absolutely crippled by this.  The following is from Fox News

A federal agency’s recent announcement that the California’s Central Valley will get zero percent water allocation this year was devastating for farmers already dealing with the worst drought seen in decades.

One of the world’s most productive agricultural regions, the enormous valley is reeling after the driest year in more than a century. But last week, the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation, which supplies water to a third of the irrigated farmland in California through a 500-mile network of canals and tunnel, said it won’t be able to deliver any of the water sought by farmers.

“It goes beyond devastation, you’re going to see farms that have been in business 30 and 40 years, they do not have any water, they are out of business,” said Dennis Falaschi, general manager of the Panoche Water District.

If California produces much less food than it normally does, that means that food prices are going to start skyrocketing.  Here is more from Holly Deyo

As one Millennium-Ark reader pointed out in an email last week, after the jump in beef prices, people will look to chicken, pork, fish and turkey. Chicken is already up though not as much as beef.  This will, in turn, drive up their costs and affect availability of these other meats. Keep in mind that California also produces all of these proteins plus lamb. Then consider this: Ag Specialists Warn of Higher Wheat Prices Due to Drought. It’s not just beef, weather is clobbering food from all angles.

And please keep in mind that the total size of the U.S. cattle herd has already been shrinking for seven years in a row, and that it is now the smallest that it has been since 1951.

But back in 1951, the size of the U.S. population was less than half of what it is today.

For much more on the emerging food crisis, please see this video.

Let us certainly hope and pray that the drought in California ends soon and that things get back to normal.

But I wouldn’t count on that.

According to National Geographic, the scientific experts that have studied these things tell us that it has been quite common throughout history for that region of North America to suffer through extended droughts that last for a decade or more.

One drought even lasted for about 200 years.

So the current drought in California might end next year.

Or it might last for the rest of our lifetimes.

We simply do not know.

But what does seem clear is that the days of taking our food for granted will soon be coming to an end.

In-N-Out_triple_cheeseburger_fries -  Photo by Christian Razukas

15 Reasons Why Your Food Bill Is Going To Start SOARING

U.S. Drought Monitor California February 11 2014Did you know that the U.S. state that produces the most vegetables is going through the worst drought it has ever experienced and that the size of the total U.S. cattle herd is now the smallest that it has been since 1951?  Just the other day, a CBS News article boldly declared that “food prices soar as incomes stand still“, but the truth is that this is only just the beginning.  If the drought that has been devastating farmers and ranchers out west continues, we are going to see prices for meat, fruits and vegetables soar into the stratosphere.  Already, the federal government has declared portions of 11 states to be “disaster areas”, and California farmers are going to leave half a million acres sitting idle this year because of the extremely dry conditions.  Sadly, experts are telling us that things are probably going to get worse before they get better (if they ever do).  As you will read about below, one expert recently told National Geographic that throughout history it has been quite common for that region of North America to experience severe droughts that last for decades.  In fact, one drought actually lasted for about 200 years.  So there is the possibility that the drought that has begun in the state of California may not end during your entire lifetime.

This drought has gotten so bad that it is starting to get national attention.  Barack Obama visited the Fresno region on Friday, and he declared that “this is going to be a very challenging situation this year, and frankly, the trend lines are such where it’s going to be a challenging situation for some time to come.”

According to NBC News, businesses across the region are shutting down, large numbers of workers are leaving to search for other work, and things are already so bad that it “calls to mind the Dust Bowl of the 1930s“…

In the state’s Central Valley — where nearly 40 percent of all jobs are tied to agriculture production and related processing — the pain has already trickled down. Businesses across a wide swath of the region have shuttered, casting countless workers adrift in a downturn that calls to mind the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

If you will recall, there have been warnings that Dust Bowl conditions were going to return to the western half of the country for quite some time.

Now the mainstream media is finally starting to catch up.

And of course these extremely dry conditions are going to severely affect food prices.  The following are 15 reasons why your food bill is going to start soaring…

#1 2013 was the driest year on record for the state of California, and 2014 has been exceptionally dry so far as well.

#2 According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 91.6 percent of the entire state of California is experiencing “severe to exceptional drought” even as you read this article.

#3 According to CNBC, it is being projected that California farmers are going to let half a million acres of farmland sit idle this year because of the crippling drought.

#4 Celeste Cantu, the general manager for the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, says that this drought could have a “cataclysmic” impact on food prices…

Given that California is one of the largest agricultural regions in the world, the effects of any drought, never mind one that could last for centuries, are huge. About 80 percent of California’s freshwater supply is used for agriculture. The cost of fruits and vegetables could soar, says Cantu. “There will be cataclysmic impacts.”

#5 Mike Wade, the executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, recently explained which crops he believes will be hit the hardest…

Hardest hit would be such annual row crops as tomatoes, broccoli, lettuce, cantaloupes, garlic, peppers and corn. Wade said consumers can also expect higher prices and reduced selection at grocery stores, particularly for products such as almonds, raisins, walnuts and olives.

#6 As I discussed in a previous article, the rest of the nation is extremely dependent on the fruits and vegetables grown in California.  Just consider the following statistics regarding what percentage of our produce is grown in the state…

99 percent of the artichokes

44 percent of asparagus

two-thirds of carrots

half of bell peppers

89 percent of cauliflower

94 percent of broccoli

95 percent of celery

90 percent of the leaf lettuce

83 percent of Romaine lettuce

83 percent of fresh spinach

a third of the fresh tomatoes

86 percent of lemons

90 percent of avocados

84 percent of peaches

88 percent of fresh strawberries

97 percent of fresh plums

#7 Of course it isn’t just agriculture which will be affected by this drought.  Just consider this chilling statement by Tim Quinn, the executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies…

“There are places in California that if we don’t do something about it, tens of thousands of people could turn on their water faucets and nothing would come out.”

#8 The Sierra Nevada snowpack is only about 15 percent of what it normally is.  As the New York Times recently explained, this is going to be absolutely devastating for Californians when the warmer months arrive…

Experts offer dire warnings. The current drought has already eclipsed previous water crises, like the one in 1977, which a meteorologist friend, translating into language we understand as historians, likened to the “Great Depression” of droughts. Most Californians depend on the Sierra Nevada for their water supply, but the snowpack there was just 15 percent of normal in early February.

#9 The underground aquifers that so many California farmers depend upon are being drained at a staggering rate

Pumping from aquifers is so intense that the ground in parts of the valley is sinking about a foot a year. Once aquifers compress, they can never fill with water again. It’s no surprise Tom Willey wakes every morning with a lump in his throat. When we ask which farmers will survive the summer, he responds quite simply: those who dig the deepest and pump the hardest.

#10 According to an expert interviewed by National Geographic, the current drought in the state of California could potentially last for 200 years or more as some mega-droughts in the region have done in the past…

California is experiencing its worst drought since record-keeping began in the mid 19th century, and scientists say this may be just the beginning. B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California at Berkeley, thinks that California needs to brace itself for a megadrought—one that could last for 200 years or more.

#11 Much of the western U.S. has been exceedingly dry for an extended period of time, and this is hurting huge numbers of farmers and ranchers all the way from Texas to the west coast…

“Ranchers in the West are selling off their livestock,” Patzert said. “Farmers all over the Southwest, from Texas to Oregon, are fallowing in their fields because of a lack of water. For farmers and ranchers, this is a painful drought.”

#12 The size of the U.S. cattle herd has been shrinking for seven years in a row, and it is now the smallest that it has been since 1951.  But our population has more than doubled since then.

#13 Extremely unusual weather patterns are playing havoc with crops all over the planet right now.  The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Lizzie Bennett

Peru, Venezuela, and Bolivia have experienced rainfall heavy enough to flood fields and rot crops where they stand. Volcanic eruptions in Ecuador are also creating problems due to cattle ingesting ash with their feed leading to a slow and painful death.

Parts of Australia have been in drought for years affecting cattle and agricultural production.

Rice production in China has been affected by record low temperatures.

Large parts of the UK are underwater, and much of that water is sea water which is poisoning the soil. So wet is the UK that groundwater is so high it is actually coming out of the ground and adding to the water from rivers and the sea. With the official assessment being that groundwater flooding will continue until MAY, and that’s if it doesn’t rain again between now and then. The River Thames is 65 feet higher than normal in some areas, flooding town after town as it heads to the sea.

#14 As food prices rise, our incomes are staying about the same.  The following is from a CBS News article entitled “Food prices soar as incomes stand still“…

While the government says prices are up 6.4 percent since 2011, chicken is up 18.4 percent, ground beef is up 16.8 percent and bacon has skyrocketed up 22.8 percent, making it a holiday when it’s on sale.

#15 As I have written about previously, median household income has fallen for five years in a row.  So average Americans are going to have to make their food budgets stretch more than they ever have before as this drought drags on.

If the drought does continue to get worse, small agricultural towns all over California are going to die off.

For instance, consider what is already happening to the little town of Mendota

The farms in and around Mendota are dying of thirst. The signs are everywhere. Orchards with trees lying on their sides, as if shot. Former farm fields given over to tumbleweeds. Land and cattle for sale, cheap.

Large numbers of agricultural workers continue to hang on, hoping that somehow there will be enough work for them.  But as Evelyn Nieves recently observed, panic is starting to set in…

Off-season, by mid-February, idled workers are clearly anxious. Farmworkers and everyone else who waits out the winter for work (truckers, diesel providers, packing suppliers and the like) are nearing the end of the savings they squirrel away during the season. The season starts again in March, April at the latest, but no one knows who will get work when the season begins, or how much.

People are scared, panicked even.

I did not write this article so that you would panic.

Yes, incredibly hard times are coming.  If you will recall, the 1930s were also a time when the United States experienced extraordinarily dry weather conditions and a tremendous amount of financial turmoil.  We could very well be entering a similar time period.

Worrying about this drought is not going to change anything.  Instead of worrying, we should all be doing what we can to store some things up while food is still relatively cheap.  Our grandparents and our great-grandparents that lived during the days of the Great Depression knew the wisdom of having a well-stocked food pantry, and it would be wise to follow their examples.

Please share this article with as many people as you can.  The United States has never faced anything like this during most of our lifetimes.  We need to shake people out of their “normalcy bias” and get them to understand that big changes are coming.

U.S. Drought Monitor California February 11 2014

About 40 Percent Of All Food In The United States Is Thrown In The Garbage

LandfillCould that headline actually be true?  Do Americans waste about 40 percent of all the food that we produce?  That sounds like an absolutely crazy number, but it is actually quite accurate according to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council.  What the NRDC discovered is that approximately 40 percent of our total food supply is either thrown into dumpsters by grocery stores, is discarded by restaurants, never gets harvested on our farms, or is thrown into the garbage by consumers in their homes.  Even though 47 million Americans are on food stamps and millions of children go to bed hungry in this country every single night, we continue to waste approximately 263 million pounds of food every single day of the year.  One day people will look back and regard us as probably the most wasteful society in the history of the planet.

So where does all of that food go?

Well, according to a recent Seattle Times article, “food waste” takes up more space in our landfills than anything else does…

Last year, the NRDC found that Americans throw out as much as 40 percent of the country’s food supply each year, adding up to $165 billion in losses.

Food waste makes up the largest portion of solid trash in landfills, according to researchers.

Some $900 million of expired food is dumped from the supply chain annually, much of it a result of confusion. Misinterpreted date labels cause the average American household of four to lose as much as $455 a year on squandered food, according to researchers.

The expired food that gets wasted is one of my personal pet peeves.

I don’t do this a lot, but today I am going to share a personal story with you.

Earlier today I was out running errands and I decided that I wanted to pick up some mini-cupcakes from Safeway that I just love.  I do try to eat a healthy diet, but I do also like a treat from time to time.  So I got over to Safeway, and I noticed that the only mini-cupcakes that they had out were ones with chocolate frosting, but I wanted ones with vanilla frosting.

So I went up to the bakery counter and there was nobody there, but behind the counter I saw a stack of several containers of vanilla cupcakes.  I waited until the bakery lady got back and I asked her if I could have them.

I was astounded when she very firmly told me that I could not buy them.

She said that it was against regulations.

I implored her to sell them to me.  I explained that I had come over to Safeway just to buy them and I didn’t care if they were a little old.

Again she very firmly told me that I could not buy them.

I could not understand this.  I knew that the cupcakes were just going to be thrown out, so I asked to speak to her manager.

After a few moments her manager came over and I was once again told very firmly that under no circumstances would I be able to buy the cupcakes.

So needless to say, I left the store with a sad look on my face and without any cupcakes.

Now of course I probably didn’t need the cupcakes anyway.  They are not healthy for me.  But big chains such as Safeway throw away massive amounts of very good food as well.  The level of the waste that goes on is absolutely astounding.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans that are dealing with hunger and malnutrition grows with each passing day.  I want to share with you an excerpt from a recent article authored by Jason Ford entitled “I Work On The Breadline“…

I work as a cashier at a nationally known discount store. I sell clothing, cleaning products, house wares and food. The people I sell to are people of all colors, races, ages and sex, but most of them have one thing in common; EBT cards. I would say about half of every transaction I do is paid for with an EBT card. Sometimes people will use three different methods of payment. They will use whatever is left on their EBT card, then use whatever is left on their debit card, and then scrape their purse to find the remaining balance, and sometimes they still don’t have enough.

Another common trait of the people I serve besides the poverty is the poor health. The food I sell is not healthy, by any stretch. I sell potato chips, candy bars, bread, canned food, ice cream, soda, packaged meat, cigarettes and alcohol. I noticed quickly that a common ingredient of most of the foods is sugar and grains. Sugar and grains are easy to grow and produce cheaply and are used as fillers in processed food to cut cost and mask the taste of other questionable ingredients. Grains work in conjunction with sugars to inflame the body and compromise the immune system. Grains and sugars also have no nutritional value besides calories, so on top of inflaming the body; they do not provide the sustenance the body needs to survive. As the functions of the body require these nutrients the diet lacks, the body sucks these minerals from the bones, teeth and brain. Bone loss, and tooth decay and decreased brain function are the unfortunate symptoms of malnutrition. The poorest of the customers I serve are also the sickest. I have witnessed toothless mouths in the young and old. Mental retardation is also a common trait among many of them. I have even witnessed one unfortunate woman whose skin was a pale green color. These people are dying a slow starvation and they don’t even know it.

Doesn’t that just break your heart?

People are living like that, and yet America discards 263 million pounds of food every single day.

Something is fundamentally wrong with the way our system works.

So what is society going to do as the number of hungry people continues to grow in this country and around the world?

Well, according to ABC News, some scientists plan to feed them with flour made out of bugs…

A team of MBA students were the recipients of the 2013 Hult Prize earlier this week, providing them with $1 million in seed money to produce an insect-based, protein-rich flour for feeding malnourished populations in other countries. The product is called Power Flour.

“It’s a huge deal because we had a very ambitious but highly executable five-year plan in place,” said team captain Mohammed Ashour, whose team hails from McGill University in Montreal. “So winning this prize is a great step in that direction.”

Ashour, along with teammates Shobhita Soor, Jesse Pearlstein, Zev Thompson and Gabe Mott, will be immediately working with an advisory board to recruit farmers and workers in Mexico, where a population of roughly 4 million live in slum conditions with widespread malnutrition.

“We will be starting with grasshoppers,” Ashour said.

Are you ready for a “protein-rich flour” made out of grasshoppers?

I know that I am not.

And in Japan, scientists have actually been working on a way to create meat out of poop.  You can read more about that right here.

Perhaps if we just quit wasting so much food we would be able to feed everybody without resorting to such craziness.

These days, an increasing number of Americans are fighting back against the colossal waste that they see all around them.  Some have even chosen to take advantage of the waste by regularly going “dumpster diving”.  The following is how I described “dumpster diving” in one of my previous articles

Have you ever thought about getting your food out of a trash can?  Don’t laugh.  Dumpster diving has become a hot new trend in America.  In fact, dumpster divers even have a trendy new name.  They call themselves “freegans”, and as the economy crumbles their numbers are multiplying.  Many freegans consider dumpster diving to be a great way to save money on groceries.  Others do it because they want to live more simply.  Freegans that are concerned about the environment view dumpster diving as a great way to “recycle” and other politically-minded freegans consider dumpster diving to be a form of political protest.  But whatever you want to call it, the reality is that thousands upon thousands of Americans will break out their boots, rubber gloves and flashlights and will be jumping into dumpsters looking for food once again tonight.

Who knows – perhaps some enterprising young dumpster diver will end up fishing the vanilla cupcakes that I wanted out of Safeway’s dumpsters this evening.

It is amazing what some of these dumpster divers are able to recover from “the trash”.  In North Carolina, one man even takes his son dumpster diving with him

A programmer by day, Todd takes to the streets of North Carolina by night, digging through Dumpsters at drug stores and grocery stores all around his rural neighborhood.

“You would be simply amazed at what businesses throw out,” he said. “I’ve only had to buy two loaves of bread all year. … Last week I had a trunk full of cereal, cookies, chips and ramen noodles.”

Todd slinks in and out of smelly places with low-light flashlights to evade rent-a-cops who will shoo him away.  Most nights, his 14-year-old son comes along.

Unfortunately, dumpster diving is not as easy as it used to be.

As dumpster diving has soared in popularity, some grocery stores have responded by putting locks on their dumpsters.

And in some areas of the country, police have even started regularly arresting dumpster divers.

But in the end, dumpster diving was not going to be a permanent solution anyway.

A permanent solution would be to quit wasting so much food.

I applaud the grocery store chains that choose to donate their expired food to homeless shelters and food banks.

We need to see a lot more of that going on.

And in our own homes we need to find ways to give more food away and waste less of it.

All of this needless wasting of food does not have to happen.  Let’s work together to find some solutions.

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