There is a current supply shortage for fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Many when hearing this will say “well good, we don’t need any more glyphosate and the like.” The dark reality is we do need it. Most American food production is conventional industrial agriculture and with it, genetically modified seeds. Our ever increasing yields are highly dependent on proper amount and timing of application of these inputs. Major producers of these fertilizers are quite proud of this. According to Mosaic, a fertilizer manufacturer:
“Fertilizers’ contribution to the food supply
A survey of U.S. crop production estimated that average corn yields would decline by 40 percent without nitrogen (N) fertilizer. Even greater declines would occur if other macronutrients, phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) were also limited. Numerous long-term studies have also demonstrated the contributions of fertilizer to sustaining crop yields. For example, long-term studies in Oklahoma show a 40 percent wheat yield decline without regular N and P additions. A long-term study in Missouri found that 57 percent of the grain yield was attributable to fertilizer and lime additions.
Similarly, long-term trials from Kansas show that 60 percent of the corn yield was attributable to fertilizer N and P.”
Shortages are based on the difference of current supply and current demand, and right now, that’s 3.5%. Forecasted reduction in global yields is sitting at 12%, one could infer that this is a result of a 1 to 1 reduction in yield for each input. This figure only accounts for inputs that aren’t available. Farmers are business men and women, if they don’t have access to these inputs they will adjust accordingly. This goes for the farmer who can no longer afford these inputs either. The stark increase in the price of fertilizers is partly due to this global push to reduce the use of fossil fuels without an alternative infastructure in place. This has sky rocketed the cost of natural gas, a major component to creating the chemical fertilizer nitrogen. Most of these inputs are used to grow crops for animal feed and bio fuels. Keep in mind there are many other factors contributing to the massive rise in these prices and shortages such as, countries banning exports to ensure their own supply, as well as the damage from last year’s hurricanes on production facilities. Now compound all that with the current Ukranian-Russia conflict. These two countries control 30% of the world’s exported grain, as well as being major providers of oil and natural gas. While the US dependence on these grain exports is minimal, we will be called upon to feed our allies who are. There are many more agricultural impacts that will come from this conflict, but I wish to focus on grain because it’s domino effect is the greatest.
Every industrial animal producer uses and depends on grain and their byproducts as the main energy component to feed their animals. Many small scale producers and backyard homesteaders have some level of dependence on grain. I do, but I have the freedom and flexibility to adjust, while large industrial producers do not. This is exactly why we need to get back to depending on the American homesteader. The ripples of these shortages will effect the price of ALL meats, eggs, dairy products and shelf stable staples like bread, flour, pastas and soups. we have no idea how long this conflict will last. If it’s resolved in favor of Ukrainian independence will it be in time to plant this years crop? If the end result favors Russia, will the rest of the world resume trade with them? There are too many unknowns that are well beyond our control and influence to remain so dependent on industrial agriculture and just in time delivery.
Just like the covid response, access to food will be weaponized. That’s a pretty dire reality, but it doesn’t have to be. We have the the tools and weapons to fight back, they’re called grit and responsibility. Approximately 250 million birds are being raised in industrial settings for US egg production. That’s basically a one to one of the adult population. We could end the need for industrial egg production almost over night if one of every three of us raised a handful of chickens. Even if one in ten of us raised a flock we could easily knock them off their pedestal of power. Victory gardens of WW2 supplied 40% of all produce consumed. We don’t need industrial agriculture, it needs us. If you are not the one in three, or one in ten, become the board member changing zoning ordinance to allow for backyard livestock and gardens. Be the ally that sets their community free.
Our time of taking from the earth has come to an end. We cannot sustain ourselves if we do not implement regenerative practices that build soil. Battles are followed by years of famine, when the famine is declared it is too late. Our ancestors thrived through much harder times, let’s make them proud and secure the future for generations to come.