By Cat Ellis
Floods are dangerous natural disasters. People and animals can be swept away and easily drown. Floods can carry bacteria and pollutants great distances. Floods can bust through levees and tear down bridges. Floods can also lead to food shortages when they destroy farms, like the recent floods in the Midwest have. Smart preppers will take measures to beef up their food storage now.
By now, most US-based preppers have either heard about (or experienced) the massive, damaging floods in the Midwest since this past March. To make matters worse, the potential for more floods in key agricultural states looms in front of us as more rain is predicted for the rest of this spring.
So far, heavy flooding has impacted important agricultural states, including Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri. From NOAA:
“Additional spring rain and melting snow will prolong and expand flooding, especially in the central and southern U.S. As this excess water flows downstream through the river basins, the flood threat will become worse and geographically more widespread.”
Let’s take a look at why this is happening, what are the real risks involved, and what steps you can take to keep you and your loved ones fed and safe during a food shortage.
What Caused the Floods
Last fall brought heavy rains which soaked the ground heading into winter. The frozen winter earth was covered in heavier than normal snowfall. As warmer temperatures arrived in early spring, the snow began to melt, but the ground remained frozen underneath.
This would have resulted in minor flooding, except that heavy rains followed. According to The New York Times,
“The flat, frozen land, unable to soak in much of the water, spread it fast and furious, the way liquid would spread across a tiled floor. And the runoff quickly filled many rivers and streams to overflowing.”
The Problems Farmers Now Face
Home gardeners may be familiar with the saying, “The garden waits for no one.” When it’s time to start seeds, time to plant, time to weed, etc, that’s it. It is time. We don’t get the luxury of starting any time we feel like. For example, you can’t start cucumbers and tomatoes outdoors in September in New England and expect to eat them.
Each plant has its own needs for ground temperature, moisture, and sunlight. If you wait too long, your plants just won’t grow well or at all. You snooze, you lose.
Commercial farmers are in the same boat. Many were waiting for the massive rains to stop so their fields could dry out enough to plant their crops. But, that break in the rain never came. For many farmers, the time has simply run out to plant staple crops like wheat and corn.
According to Bloomberg:
“There has never been weather like this, either. The 12 months that ended with April were the wettest ever for the contiguous U.S. That spurred other firsts: Corn plantings are further behind schedule for this time of year than they have been in records dating to 1980 and analysts are predicting an unheard-of 6 million acres intended for the grain may simply go unsown this year.”
Some farmers may get a chance at a later crop, depending upon how fast their fields dry up some and what crop and variety they are growing. Many will not. This could be a disastrous, monstrous loss of income for American family farmers. (source)
In Nebraska and Iowa, cattle and hogs were killed by the floodwaters and their feed lost.
The water rose so quickly that farmers in many areas had no time to get animals out, said Chad Hart, an agricultural economist at Iowa State University.
“Places that haven’t seen animal loss have seen a lot of animal stress. That means they’re not gaining weight and won’t be marketed in as timely a manner, which results in additional cost,” he said. (source)
Which Foods are Going to Be Scarce
When we look at the currently impacted states, here’s which crops and livestock will be impacted:
Take a good look at that list. Grains are not just used for baking bread. They are used extensively in CAFOs for livestock feed. Grain prices go up, so does the cost of meat. Hay and alfalfa are also key crops for feeding cattle and horses. Check out the price increase for hay due to fires, drought, and now, flooding:
RAYMORE, Mo. — The price of hay has tripled for a lot of horse and livestock owners. Hay bales that usually cost $40 are now $150.
That’s because there’s a shortage in the region. The Midwest hay shortage is said to be the result of 2018 wildfires in Kansas, drought in Missouri and wet weather in Iowa. (source)
Also, take a look at nearly any food label on ready-made foods at your local grocery store. You will typically find wheat, corn, dairy, eggs, or soy in nearly every single convenience food out there.
Corn is used for corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is added to everything from granola bars to breakfast cereals to deli meats. Corn is added as ethanol to our fuel. Wheat, corn starch, and modified corn starch are added as thickening agents to nearly every sauce. Good luck finding anything that comes packaged that doesn’t contain soy or soy lecithin.
Bottom line: our modern food supply is largely dependent upon grains and soy. With major producers losing at least one harvest this year, the cost of manufactured food and livestock feed will skyrocket. Meat and dairy will be doubly impacted. While many farms lost animals to floodwaters, and farmers lost money due to both lost animals and damage to property, the cost to feed those remaining animals is going to go through the roof.
What a Food Shortage Means on Main Street
If that was a lot to take in, here are the four key takeaways about the flooding that you need to know:
- Flooding has caused massive losses of grain and livestock.
- Remaining livestock will be much more expensive to raise.
- Nearly all manufactured and processed foods relies upon abundant, cheap inputs of wheat, corn, and soy.
- Corn is used to make ethanol, which is added to our fuel at the pump
In a nutshell, expect everything to get more scarce and more expensive from food to fuel. The ever-shrinking middle class and the working poor will be hit the hardest. These groups receive no government assistance to offset the cost of food and do not have the financial resources to absorb the rising costs. This will lead to more and more families tightening their belt buckles, and potential slowdowns in other areas of the economy.
Those who do receive government assistance will also suffer as their benefits will not go up to meet the increased cost of food. And, if you think these folks will be placid, calm, and take this on the chin, think again. (See EBT riots below.)
If you want a great example of what a real food shortage looks like, Venezuela has given us ample evidence. While Venezuela has seen food shortages for entirely different reasons, the result is the same- bare shelves and hungry people. Hungry people are dangerous people. Check out Daisy Luther’s article, Venezuela Is Out of Food, for the stark reality.
A little closer to home, we can look back to 2013 and the EBT riots. As a quick recap, the EBT system suffered an outage for two hours, and people lost their minds. Walmarts closed as people began rioting and looting. Just two hours!
Springhill Police Chief Will Lynd said they were called in to help the employees at Walmart because there were so many people clearing the shelves. The Walmart Supercenter Mansfield shelves were cleared in two hours.
“It was worse than anything we had ever seen in this town,” Lynd said. “There was no food left on any of the shelves, and no meat left. The grocery part of Walmart was totally decimated.” (source)
Take These Steps Now
Mainstream media hasn’t touched this topic with a ten-foot pole. If they did, it would instill panic and a run on grocery stores immediately. The talking heads on TV are pretending there isn’t a potential crisis around the corner.
Don’t fall for it.
The best course of action is to stock up on food. Everyone’s situation is different. Some people have to stockpile in a city apartment, and others have acres to grow their own veggies and raise/hunt their own meat. Whatever your situation is, start thinking about what you eat and how to store those items.
Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Buy a storage freezer. Check out Facebook and local sales apps if buying a new one is too costly.
- Buy a cow or pig from a local farm for that freezer. This is the least expensive way to buy meat that I have found. It’s a lot up front, but the best price per pound.
- Join a wholesale club and buy your meats there. You may need to cut up and portion your meat into freezer bags prior to freezing. This is the second least expensive way to buy meat that I know of, and it has a lower upfront cost.
- Use a website, like Local Harvest, to find farms near you. Make good use of local CSA farms, farm stands, and farmers markets. You can find everything from meats to dairy, to produce without ever stepping foot into a grocery store. Local food is the hedge against the failures of centralized, modern agriculture.
- Buy a pressure canner. I started out with a less pricey Mirro pressure canner, but now use the All American 921, which I love. Whenever you find a deal, or if you buy in bulk from a wholesale club, can up that extra food for a rainy day.
- Buy cheap cuts and stock up. Check out my article on Homesteading Mom on pressure canning beef stew. Stew meat is inexpensive and lasts a long time in the pantry. Pressure canning ensures it is nice and tender.
- Can’t afford to buy in bulk? Use this opportunity to talk with friends about prepping and make a group purchase.
- If you have a yard, use some of it to grow some of your own food. Food is expensive. Seeds are cheap. It may be too late today to get certain summer vegetables in the ground depending upon where you live. But, most people still have time to plant a fall garden. If you don’t have much space, look into container gardening.
- Stock up on grains in bulk – you can learn how to do it inexpensively here.
- Make use of this site’s search feature! There are tons of great articles on food storage right here.
- Better yet, check out some of Daisy Luther’s books like The Prepper’s Canning Guide, The Flat Broke Cookbook, and her new book due out next week (available for preorder), Prepper’s Pantry.
The idea of a food shortage is daunting, but don’t let that scare you off stocking that pantry.
What do you think?
What are your favorite food storage tips? Do you have any recipes that help you stretch your food budget? Share your insights in the comments section. We’re all in this together.
Cat Ellis is an herbalist, massage therapist, midwifery student, and urban homesteader from New England. She keeps bees, loves gardening and canning, and practice time at the range. She teaches herbal skills on her website, Herbal Prepper. Cat is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, and the author of two books, Prepper’s Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic.