Free Market Famine Redux: Who Will Feed China?

Activist Post

Long-time published author, Joseph E. Fasciani, wrote an article in May, 2004 for Axis of Logic titled, It’s Time to Again Ask:  Who Will Feed China? Activist Post is honored to have been contacted by Joseph to publish an exclusive follow-up companion piece tracing the state of farming then and now, as well as what food shortages mean for all of us.  The original article is reprinted by permission in its entirety to offer clarity and perspective. 
May 23, 2004
It’s Time to Again Ask:  Who Willl Feed China?
When Lester Brown’s book Who Will Feed China? came out in 1995, apart from the usual suspect environmentalists (such as myself), few people noticed it or thought it “realistic” in its forecasts.  The prestigious author, president of the Worldwatch Institute, recipient of many environmental awards, predicted China’s breakneck industrialization would lead to massive world grain shortages in the next century.  Well, we’re very near that point, China has developed even faster than what he foresaw, so what’s next?
At that time he wrote that political leaders must recognize “the world is now on a demographic and economic path that is environmentally unsustainable.”  No argument there, I think, as most of us who are Internet users, have a high school education, and are halfway ecologically aware will admit.  He used Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan as key examples of countries already densely populated when they set out to rapidly industrialize, parallel to China’s present situation.  Brown felt these countries developed in ways that compelled them to turn to imported grains for their populations. He cited many reasons for this, ranging from land scarcity, migration to cities from farms, general overpopulation, water scarcity, and unstable (i.e., unregulated free trade) prices on the world market.
To feed its 1.3 billion people, China may soon have to import so much grain that this could trigger unprecedented rises in grain prices. When Japan, a nation of just 125 million, began to import food, world grain markets rejoiced. But China’s market is ten times greater, so there may not be enough easily available grain in the world to meet that market.  And here’s where it gets really sticky.

The advocates of “Free Trade” and global corporatism who are in these markets, giants such as Cargill and Archer Daniels Midland, say that prices will rise to where those that have will get, and those that don’t, won’t.  The neoconservatives’ beloved Social Darwinism raises its New World Disorder head, as the Godzilla of food prices rises equally for the rich and the poor alike.
Analysts long understood that the higher incomes of China’s new industrial urban proles would increase food demand, especially for meats, eggs, beer, and grains in general.  And these same analysts assumed China’s domestic food production would rise to meet these demands.  But how are you going to keep them down on the farm, after they’ve seen Beijing?  Urban proles don’t raise their own food, and most of these newly arrived just escaped from China’s Third World farms, so they’re not bloody likely to return!  So who will feed China?
The world’s great granaries are Canada, the USofA, and Argentina.  But here we encounter some novel problems with supply, which is supposed to infinitely rise to meet infinite demand.  In the airy-fairy world of academic economists, Professor Samuelson’s Economics text poses an absurd infinitely expanding pie of supply.  Argentina is a basket case (created by the same Friedmanite economists who gave us global corporatism and free trade lies) and can barely feed itself, rising Summer temperatures make Canada’s non-irrigated crops more dicey every year, and US stockpiles were deliberately run low.  It is, as a recent article put it, “The End of the World as We Know It, Pentagon Style:”
Particularly vulnerable would be China, which has huge food demands for a population expected to reach almost 1.4 billion over the next 15 years.  Much of its agricultural capacity is in low-lying coastal regions and river valleys already threatened by periodic flooding.  The Pentagon planners suggest that an expansion into Russian territory might prove irresistible. 
Well, flooding, schmuding, so long as there’s a buck to be made.  Now we arrive at the crux of our problem: thanks to its US dollar wealth, China can easily outbid other nations in a “free world” auction of remaining foodstocks.  No more starving Chinese to take our table scraps!  They’ll eat the pricey food that our domestic poor can’t afford! And that’s OK, says the Bushies:  that’s compassionate conservatism in action!  It gives missionary churches more chances to get those damned poor we always have too many of into the churches for their daily bread.  (Please re-read “The Grand Inquisitor” from The Brothers Karamazov for an important update on this.)
I’m waiting to hear what the candidates have to say about “who’s to eat, and who’s to serve* in the kitchen of this New World Disorder Café, brought to you by the same folks that created the Federal Reserve, World Wars 1 & 2, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the pillaging of Central and South American farming and industry, and the 25,000,000 landless urban poor within the USSA who, less than a century ago, could have survived in a less industrialized economy.  A small price to pay for Progress, eh Dubya?
*Leonard Cohen: “Democracy,” from The Future
July 10, 2010 
Free Market Famine of 2010
Just over six years ago I wrote an article for The Axis of Logic titled, It’s Time to Again Ask: Who Will Feed China? As I’ve been intimately involved with agriculture and horticulture for more than forty years, including service as a governmental advisor to people starting out to farm for the first time, I felt I had some insight into what increasingly looked to be a dire future for the so-called “wealthy nations” of Kanada and the USSA [not typos].
When you read the earlier article, note that it was NOT written in a strident voice, nor was it calling for imminent doom and gloom. It was only a forecast of what I believed was likely the most probable outcome of trends already in place, trends not likely to slow, never mind cease. And now, as we used to say in VietNam, there it is!
Today China clearly has the cash and is ready to step up and buy what the world sells. And buy she has: from multi-billion dollar oil and gas deals to fertile land in the tens of thousands of acres, China has been dumping its US dollars, even as they slowly unwind in decreasing value. In turn, China’s bought or secured long-term supplies of food, energy, minerals, metals, and other true necessities of life. The USSA has not done this for its citizens, but instead has arrogantly chosen to stand aside from true conservative practices, in order to let the privately-owned and so-called “free markets” dictate what will be public policy in food and water.
As to who is to pay and who is to eat, well, let the “free” markets decide!  Be assured the fat white and black asses in our two ruling houses will be well-fed, at your expense, but hey!  Ya got’cher freedoms, don’tya? Too bad them Afghanis don’t, eh? Maybe some Iraqi oil will taste good to ya….  Gawd knows you paid and paid and paid for it in blood and wealth!
Finally, as I wrote to Jeff Rense on Thursday, June 22:
Sunday [the 18th] was the last day for Canadian grain farmers to get their seeding done for this year. Unfortunately, we’re having torrential rain and floods, so the seeding will be 40% below normal, at best. But wait, it gets worse.
Our dairy and meat cattle are being drowned, as well. The remaining ones will go back to severely ravaged grazing grounds, lowering overall production by a yet-to-be determined amount, but surely at least 10%, more likely 20%.
Farm prices in general are at long-term lows, so even if farmers and ranchers were able to raise 100% of what they could, it still wouldn’t be enough to cover the bills.
I think this Autumn could see a general collapse of the large-scale agricultural sector. Small family farms will survive, if just barely.
People who read history will recall that the collapse of the farm sector took place three years before the onset of the Great Depression. The crash of 1929 was only the industrial sector’s confirmation of what had already happened in the hinterlands.
It’s a’coming, be here all-too-soon.
All best, J
The real problem here is that with the noble exception of the Canadian Wheat Board’s marketing, the people who raise our food receive barely enough to cover their costs of production. For all practical purposes, they have neither choice nor voice in who buys what they sell, and at what “market” price. As there are now only six major players in the international grains trade [how free is that, except free to conspire?], the opportunities for price-fixing are simply too, too wonderful to ignore.
We’ll soon be visited by the likes of the villain of Frank Norris’s famous trilogy of the wheat, “The Octopus,” the railroad’s notorious Berman, when he tells the about-to-be-destroyed farmer that the railroad has but one policy: “Charge all the market will bear!”
Nothing’s changed in more than a century; our Jeffersonian revolution’s at least eight times over due. Look for it in September-October, always good months for collapse and chaos.
To arms, to arms, mon ami!
A free and better world awaits!
Feel free to contact Joseph E. Fasciani with your comments and questions

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