Thursday, February 25, 2010

Locavores Know Not What They Ask For

Study evaluates local agricultural production
Don Curlee • Agriculture • February 22, 2010

Producing food near population centers is the dream of locavores, but now it's also the subject of a serious study by a Ph.D. agricultural resources student at the University of California, Berkeley.

The study concludes that the benefits of such a massive shift in such production and distribution methods are not likely to be as substantial as has been asserted. Furthermore, it suggests that the benefits are dwarfed by the costs of less-efficient production and reduced access to nutritious food.

The perspective taken by study author Steve Sexton is global. He cites projections of a world population of 9 billion by 2050, and says feeding a hungry world is a paramount objective. He summarized his findings in the November/December issue of Update, published by the Giannini Foundation of Agricultural Economics at the University of California, Davis.

"A doubling of food production in the second half of the 20th century saved the world from mass starvation," he writes, "as population doubled to six billion." He credits the rise of modern farming propelled by the Green Revolution for that accomplishment.

While current food production and distribution systems are criticized by locavores for their consumption of energy, Sexton says such criticism ignores the economies of scale and the gains of moving from a mule-dominated farm economy to the efficiency of tractors and other motorized equipment. He believes those advantages likely will be lost in smaller diversified farm units nestled against the city limits.

The fantasy land Sexton identifies as pseudo-locavorism will require more than 214 million additional acres in farm production, an area twice the size of California. The transition means 40 million additional acres will be required in California, 34 million in Texas and 26 million in Florida.

"If mass starvation is to be avoided in the current century," Sexton reasons, "then we must either forsake natural land including tropical forests, or renew our commitment to crop science."

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For some unknown reason, we have people in this country that are upset that we have the most affordable, abundant, and safest food supply in the history of the world. Instead they would rather have their food supply grown in places that would make it inefficient and more damaging to our environment. Not only that, but there are several billion people that will have to volunteer to go hungry as well. This article talks about the consequences of moving to a completely local food system.


Vines_N_Cattle said...

What most critics of locavorism fail to account for is the lifestyle and financial well being of farmers involved in food production. If a farmer so chooses to eschew the declining revenues and increasing costs associated with commodity agriculture, where's the harm?
Commodity ag is on a well defined path towards less autonomy, and as such, less profit. By pursuing local markets, farmers reconnect directly with consumers instead of through the police taped boundaries set forth by the large agribusiness players. "Locavorism" is merely farmers selling their goods on their own.

Some people might call that capitalism.

I've toured farms that have relatively few inputs, yet sell their goods directly, collecting all of the food dollar for themselves. I've met a 500 acre farmer, with 2.5 million in revenue, all from selling pork, chicken and cattle!
As a life long conventional farmer tired of increasing costs, and decreasing commodity prices, I have to ask, "What good is feeding the world, if I'm not going to be compensated for it?"

One more thing, ya ever notice that the folks slapping us on the back for "Feeding The World!" are the ones either selling high cost inputs, or the ones paying us pennies for our production?

DLD said...

This is a great article. You can't feed New York, Boston, LA or any of our other metro areas with products brought in only from local farmers. The 49 million American's who are already food insecure can't afford policies such as this.