Barron's: Food Shortage Coming to USA?

Barron’s headline: A Food Shortage Could Be Coming, Even in the U.S.
By Lisa BeilfussFollow
Updated July 25, 2022 / Original July 22, 2022

Concerns of a global food shortage have been mounting given the war in Ukraine and the huge amounts of fertilizer, wheat, and other food-related exports that come from that region. Many economists and strategists say a food shortage can’t happen here. After all, the U.S. produces most of its own food and roughly half of domestic land is used for agricultural production, according to the Food and Drug Administration. There are several overlapping reasons, however, why America shouldn’t take a sufficient food supply for granted.

Eva Slatter, a farrier in Emory, Texas, travels from farm to farm to take care of horses’ hoofs and has a small farm of her own. Her neighbor is selling his herd of cows, and a local livestock auction earlier this month brought out more trailers than she had ever seen, with ranchers looking to sell backed up for miles. Record temperatures and the worst drought in more than a decade mean there isn’t grass for the animals to eat, and hay—the alternative—is tough to come by as higher fuel costs make it harder to transport from other states. The cost of hay in her area is around $220 a roll, compared with about $45 in normal times and $120 in a typical drought year, she says.

“None of the ranchers I know want to get out, but they have to,” Slatter says of the livestock liquidation. “Everybody is selling because they can’t feed them, and no one is buying the cows to raise.” That suggests more meat and lower prices in the near term. But the Texas Farm Bureau said in a report this past week that with much of the current breeding herd going to processing plants, calf numbers will fall in years ahead. As Slatter puts it, if everyone sells out of cattle now, what are we going to do later on?