The Coming Food Shortfall

Catastrophic weather crises are threatening one of your most basic needs.
From the October 2006 Trumpet Print Edition

Mention the word Britain, and certain images spring to my mind. I see a nation of rolling hills carpeted with lush, green grass rooted in rich, loamy soils. Bountiful croplands are surrounded by dense, spectacular forests. Rushing rivers and clear ponds provide water for plump sheep and meaty cows. For generations, this was Britain: a picture of agricultural prosperity.

Its former dominion Down Under was much the same. A land of contrasts, Australia’s vast heart of desert was encircled by immense agricultural wealth and productivity. Boundless space and seasonal rainfall fostered the growth of acre upon acre of a variety of crops, tree farms, vineyards, olive plantations and dairy farms. Australian sheep and cattle stations can encompass tens of thousands of acres. With seemingly limitless cultivable land blessed by seasonal rainfall, Australia has been a leading exporter of various crops and livestock.

For the past 200 years, the British Commonwealth, particularly Australia, Canada and New Zealand, has epitomized agricultural wealth and prosperity.

Only one country has possessed agricultural richness surpassing that of those nations. As vast as the land Down Under, possessing soils as rich and moist as Britain, the United States stood at the pinnacle of agricultural wealth for decades.

Together, these nations have possessed agricultural wealth of unprecedented and impressive proportions.

Over the years, this agricultural affluence has created societies accustomed to a variety of high-quality foods at low prices. Their storehouses have always overflowed. Opulence is the standard, as these nations enjoy mountains of inexpensive, readily accessible food. Their grocery stores are colossal buildings lavishly decked with bounties of every kind of food and beverage. With aisle after aisle of food stacked ceiling-high, the hardest part of shopping for the consumer can be deciding which variety of each food he or she wants. Fine restaurants and fast-food outlets line the streets of these nations. Inexpensive food is everywhere!

That is why the coming downfall of American, Australian and British agriculture will be so shocking and devastating.

Overflowing storehouses are about to become a blessing of the past. The times of cheap and abundant food in these nations are coming to an end!

Even now, natural disasters and weather catastrophes are devastating crops and spurring a decline in agricultural production in these nations. As a result, food prices are rising, and many analysts predict that the problem will only grow worse. An ominous storm is brewing over your grocery store. Unpredictable and devastating weather conditions are jeopardizing access to one of life’s most elemental needs: food!

Pervasive Drought

North America, Britain and Australia are currently being inflicted by some of the worst droughts in their history. Clean and abundant water is becoming a highly sought-after commodity in many regions throughout these nations.

Summer in Britain this year was a sizzler. As early as May, with Britain’s Environment Agency warning that the nation may be facing its worst drought in 100 years, the government started imposing water restrictions. By the end of summer, millions of people were under “drought orders,” which banned all non-essential use of water. Swimming pools sat empty; cars could not be washed; public parks, golf courses, cricket pitches and other sporting grounds withered away.

This is a nation with a reputation for unfailing wetness!

In May, according to the Times, rainfall had “been below average for the past six months while London and much of southern England have experienced the driest 18 months in the past 74 years” (May 16; emphasis mine throughout). As summer wore on, rivers, streams and ponds in England and Wales dried up, and trees dropped their leaves prematurely. The nation became a tinderbox of desiccated vegetation and dry soil. In the month of July, there were more than 600 fires in Liverpool alone. Thousands of other blazes fried different parts of the nation as summer sizzled on.

As drought conditions spread north throughout the summer, the Environment Agency was forced to ban some farmers from irrigating their crops. Certain rivers, a traditional source of irrigation, were down 50 percent of their long-term average level. By mid-July, the water level of even the mighty Thames had sunk to a mere 75 percent of its average height.

In many regions, the problem of lack of rainfall was compounded by the lowering of groundwater stocks. In July, groundwater levels in some areas were as low as they had been in the unprecedented drought of 1976, and in some cases, lower.

Drought conditions in Australia are even worse. June this year was the driest on record for the state of Western Australia, the third-driest for Victoria and the fifth-driest for the country as a whole. Regions that have traditionally been agriculturally rich—including the southwest of Western Australia, the Murray-Darling Basin, the entire state of Victoria, much of New South Wales and the southeastern part of Queensland—are currently enduring some of the severest droughts in their history. The state of Victoria has not had a solid rainfall year since 1997. Southeast Queensland, experiencing its worst drought on record, has banned residents from watering their gardens with hoses or sprinklers. The Murray-Darling Basin, a massive area of relatively fertile and cultivable land in the southeast of the country, often called the nation’s food bowl, is setting “dry” records. According to David Dreverman, River Murray Water manager, the past five years have been the “driest five-year sequence on record” (Australian, July 13).

July 22, United Press International reported that across the board, “Australia is experiencing its most severe drought in a century and its third-worst in history.” In the Hunter Valley region of New South Wales, packs of wild dogs, following their prey, the kangaroos, to a small strip of irrigated land, are attacking drought-stricken farmers and miners. In many regions, the severity and length of the drought—failed crops year after year, dying stock day after day, escalating debt, the erosion of rural communities—is so heartbreaking that some farmers are losing hope, even committing suicide. A Melbourne-based anti-depression agency says that on average one male farmer in Australia commits suicide every four days, and there are reports that the rate is increasing.

In America, similar drought conditions are confronting farmers. Regular rainfall is becoming an increasingly rare phenomenon in many parts of the country. By the end of July, over 60 percent of America languished in abnormally dry conditions or drought. From Georgia to Arizona, and north through the Dakotas, Minnesota, Montana and Wisconsin, America’s breadbasket is drying up. At the same time, record heat scorched the nation, with periodic surges of fierce and damaging triple-digit temperatures.

For farmers like Harvey Heier in Kansas, wrote the Christian Science Monitor, “the effects of the current heat wave are exaggerated because they come on top of a dry winter and dry summer the year before” (July 20). Large swaths of topsoil across the Plains and the Midwest are devoid of moisture. In northwest Kansas, where the average rainfall for the year through to July is around 15 inches, Mr. Heier’s farm had only received 6.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture [usda] said that growing conditions for the U.S. spring wheat crop were the worst in 18 years because there was not enough moisture to germinate seeds” (Australian, July 22).

By July, the usda had announced measures to assist farmers across the nation—including designating several counties natural disaster areas, which enables farmers to apply for low-interest emergency loans. The usda has also released large areas of land set aside by the Conservation Reserve Program for emergency grazing and haying by farmers across the Plains. In New Mexico and Oklahoma, state governments are using the Farm Service Agency’s Emergency Conservation Program to provide aid to drought-stricken ranchers in the form of loans and assistance with well drilling, pipe laying and other projects.

In America, as well as in Britain and Australia, seasons used to be much easier to predict and plan around. Farmers could plant crops and expect rain. Many can no longer do that. These “weather abnormalities,” as scientists and analysts like to call them, are making farming exceedingly more challenging and costly. Extreme hot weather in California in July, for example, caused millions of dollars’ worth of crop losses and killed thousands of livestock. Yet during the same month, in the northeast U.S., floods flattened fields and devastated cropland.

In Canada, devastating drought in 2001 and 2002, compounded by a cattle industry heavily hit by the mad cow scare, resulted in many farmers going to the wall. Since then, inconsistent winter snow falls coupled with hot, dry summers mean that the chances for a full recovery are slim.

Meanwhile, on the southern end of the planet, New Zealand’s agricultural industries continue to suffer the consequences of one of its most destructive and expensive winters in history. Heavy rainfall, severe flooding and blinding snowfalls plagued the nation all winter, and caused tens of millions of dollars in damage.

Severe weather is severely and concurrently inflicting substantial damage on all these nations that have traditionally been the world’s most blessed and productive agricultural superpowers.

This is not to say that problems are not impacting other regions—they are. Europe has had a dry, hot summer; China is having a bad cyclical drought; the Amazon Basin is drying up. In fact, the whole globe is suffering to one degree or another under adverse and unpredictable patterns, which we can expect to continue. However, the long-term severity, geographical extent and the impact on agriculture has been far worse in the U.S., Britain and Australia. Consider: Whole states of America and Australia are experiencing their worst droughts on record; England, its worst in a century.

The effects are already rippling through these nations’ economies and impacting the dinner tables of their citizens. Food prices are rising in each of these nations. Sadly, however, this is only the beginning of that trend!

The Effect on Your Grocery Bill

If soaring gas prices are pinching your budget, get ready to make further adjustments: The cost of a number of food staples is probably going to go the same direction. Global wheat prices are fluctuating around 10-year highs, and it doesn’t look like they are about to come down. Analysts warn that many basic food products will follow the same trend.

According to a July 22 article in the Australian, we are witnessing the gathering of a “perfect storm,” as record temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere, low global grain stocks, and an anticipated rise in demand for grain by biofuel companies unite to cause grain prices to surge. On top of rising wheat prices, a likely rise in corn and barley prices will further compound the consumer crunch at the grocery store.

“The concern about wheat production comes at a time when global production is projected to fall short of demand this season, which would make it the fifth of the past six years where demand has exceeded supply” (ibid.). According to the Earth Policy Institute, demand for grain will outweigh the actual supply by 61 million tons. “As a result of these shortfalls, world carryover stocks at the end of this crop year are projected to drop to 57 days of consumption, the shortest buffer since the 56-day low in 1972 that triggered a doubling of grain prices” (Energy Bulletin, June 15).

In America, this year’s battered wheat crop inflated flour prices by 25 percent. Although this price hike has so far primarily been absorbed by bakers and millers, it won’t be long before the American consumer is forced to bear the burden of tight supplies of wheat and flour-based products. Interstate Bakeries Corp., the maker of Wonder Bread, has already announced a coming rise in prices.

In America, the price of a dozen eggs has gone up nearly 9 percent since the same time last year; fresh fruit has risen more than 6 percent. And it won’t stop there, say economists, “who describe higher transportation costs and lower harvests as a perfect storm hovering over the grocery” (wndu News, August 1). These price increases are just an inkling of what’s in store.

Rising food prices, according to John Urbanchuk, food industry economist, are starting to “hit a head right now” and will continue rising for the next year or so (ibid.). In grocery stores around the country, store managers are already noticing that the less-expensive, generic brands of food are leaving shelves faster.

Food price hikes are just beginning, and already the American consumer is feeling the pinch at the check-out line. As energy prices soar and American agriculture suffers under adverse weather conditions, this trend will only get worse.

In Britain, the summer drought and heat wave has destroyed crops and boosted fruit and vegetable prices. Grain crops including wheat, winter barley and oats returned significantly lower yields, while the decimation of fruit and vegetable crops is expected to send prices spiraling to 30-year highs.

In August, analysts predicted that yields of many staple vegetable crops would be down as much as 40 percent. The decimation has sparked a country-wide rise in fruit and vegetable prices. As of August, wholesale potato prices, for example, had increased 36 percent over the same time last year.

The same trend is occurring in Australia. In July, the Age reported, “The latest inflation figures show the largest quarterly increase in food prices in 23 years …” (July 28). The Australian Bureau of Statistics showed that the food price index rose 4.1 percent in the June quarter alone, and had risen more than 8.3 percent on the previous year. “This is the highest increase in food prices in consecutive quarters since June 1983, and the largest year-on-year jump since 1989” (ibid.).

Fruit prices in Australia rose 52 percent overall for the June quarter. After Cyclone Larry lashed northern Queensland earlier in the year, banana prices in Australia jumped 250 percent. Across Australia the prices of a variety of foods, including dairy products, bread, beef, snack foods and lamb, are increasing.

This sobering trend affecting America, Britain and Australia has far-reaching potential. If agricultural production continues to decline, the peoples of these nations could suffer from more than just price hikes. Bible prophecy tells us that these nations will face an actual shortage of food!

Cursed in the Land

Consider the agricultural wealth of North America, Britain and Australasia over the past 200 years. Each has been a picture of agricultural prosperity and abundance on a grand scale. These areas have been at the vanguard of agricultural technology and development. They have been agricultural superpowers.

But look at the state of their agricultural industries now. High energy prices are driving up the cost of food production. America, Britain and Australia are among the nations hardest hit by extreme hot weather and drought. America and Britain, especially, are importing more fruits, vegetables and meats than ever. These nations are being slammed from every direction. They are being progressively transformed from agricultural superpowers into agricultural lightweights. It’s not difficult to see that these nations are under a curse.

Over the coming months and years, America and Britain and its former dominions—to whom many biblical prophecies are directed, as proved in our free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy—should expect agricultural production to become extraordinarily difficult and, as a result, the price of food at the store to increase.

One prophecy reads, “And also I have withholden the rain from you, when there were yet three months to the harvest: and I caused it to rain upon one city, and caused it not to rain upon another city: one piece was rained upon, and the piece whereupon it rained not withered” (Amos 4:7). Rain in one city, drought in another: Is there a more apt description of the weather patterns in North America, Britain and Australasia?

These nations are cursed because they have rejected the God who is the source of their wealth. “For she did not know that I gave her corn, and wine, and oil, and multiplied her silver and gold, which they prepared for Baal. Therefore I will return, and take away my corn in the time thereof, and my wine in the season thereof, and will recover my wool and my flax given to cover her nakedness” (Hosea 2:8-9). God gave North America, Britain and Australia their agricultural prosperity. Now He is in the process of taking it away!

This is a tragedy of gargantuan proportions!

As unbelievable as it might be to people who have grown accustomed to such wealth and abundance, agricultural devastation and resulting food shortages are in store for the near future. The seeds of such a crisis have already been sown.

Our lands, once rich and bountiful, are being transformed into soils of brass and skies of iron (Leviticus 26:18-20). The end result of these curses is going to be empty storehouses.

But it doesn’t have to be this way!

Blessings and abundance would be restored to these nations if they turned from their lawlessness and embraced the law of God.

The degradation of the physical wealth and prosperity of these nations is a direct result of the moral and spiritual degradation besieging them. Though this truth is sobering, it does highlight a hope-filled biblical principle. In the same manner that disobedience brings curses, obedience brings blessings!

This principle also applies on the individual level. You and I are blessed for our obedience to God’s law and cursed for our disobedience. The Bible is full of such promises.

God is not a harsh and unforgiving God. He always provides a solution and a way to escape. Whether it’s on a national or an individual level, the way to escape the looming crisis lies in repentance and obedience. If you can recognize that the weather abnormalities, agricultural devastation and soon-coming food shortages are curses from God, then understand why—and consider what changes you need to make in order to be protected from these tragedies.

To learn more about what it means to be truly repentant and how to have more blessings in your life, request our free booklet Repentance Toward God.

The Bible speaks extensively on the future of agriculture in the modern nations of Israel. You may find our booklet The Lion Has Roared helpful in guiding your scriptural study of this subject.