What if foreign enemies, bad central government policies, cybercriminals, or natural disasters suddenly disrupted the supply chains for our food? How long would we last?
Far too few Americans contemplate these scenarios and are thus woefully unprepared for a disruption of our food and agriculture industry. Thus, the Center for Security Policy will be consistently drawing attention to the important issue of food security and, more importantly, what we can do to enhance it.
Every American citizen can take some control over the issue of food security and the more they know about vulnerabilities, the more likely they’ll be to do so. Therefore, we’ll be looking at how America’s agricultural and food production and distribution work – their different components and processes and the systems that keep them going – so people can understand how it all runs. We will also point out the inherent vulnerabilities of our system and highlight threats.
Once we understand those vulnerabilities and threats, we can deal with them. Not only at the federal level, but at state and local levels. More than most issues, the average citizen can take food security into his own hands as one would keep a three-month supply of vitamins or prescription medication, take out an insurance policy, or save a bit each week for a rainy day fund.
Our executive vice president, Tommy Waller, kicks off the subject with a lengthy white paper on food security as a basic element of national security. He takes a broad overview of America’s farming and food processing and distribution systems, looks at past disruptions and present vulnerabilities, and offers a series of recommendations.
That white paper, “Food Security is National Security,” is designed to survey the problems and offer suggestions toward solutions.
“The general approach in this introductory, interim report is to de-centralize American food production and distribution – pushing as much down from the centralized level to the state, local, and individual levels, to focus policies on ensuring reliably-sourced food and agriculture supply chains for American citizens at all times, and to enhance preparedness at all levels,” the report says.
“Since food security is national security, people from the food and agriculture sectors should be included in national security discussions and vice-versa.”
The report offers the following broad, initial recommendations for public consideration and collaboration.
- Immediately withdraw from any United Nations or other transnational resolutions or agreements that adversely impact the American food and agricultural sector, and work with other countries to help them do the same.
- Orient diplomatic strategy, defense strategy, national security strategy, and trade policy toward ensuring uninterrupted supply of foreign and domestically produced food, fertilizer, and agricultural products for the well-being of American citizens.
- Rapidly roll-back federal programs that financially incentivize farmers to not plant/grow food, and immediately reduce bureaucracy and regulations that hamstring domestic food production and distribution.
- Reassess and lift regulations that handicap domestic natural gas and chemical production crucial to manufacturing of fertilizers.
- Investigate corporate policies that hamper the transportation of fertilizer and fuel precursors, and create legal barriers/penalties to these types of policies.
- Outlaw Communist Chinese and other hostile foreign ownership of American farmland, agriculture, food processing, and food distribution.
- Focus counterintelligence, cyber security, biodefense, and other resources toward protection of American agriculture, food supplies, and related infrastructure.
- Task federal agencies involved in national security and environmental policy to conduct routine outreach and coordination with the food and agriculture industry to ensure they have a “seat at the table” during planning/coordination of federal policymaking.
- Provide federal tax and regulatory incentives to improve America’s long-term food preservation industry to increase the number of canneries and storage facilities capable of producing long-term shelf-stable food.
- Work with America’s long-term food preservation industry to purchase food products during periods of low commercial demand to build food provisions in the Strategic National Stockpile. (Similar to previous presidential administrations’ purchases of oil at historically low prices to re-stock the Strategic Petroleum Reserve)
- Task FEMA with updating public messaging to warn Americans of the need to stock up on food supplies for a minimum of 90 days with the recommendation that Americans store as much long-term shelf stable food as they can.
- Rapidly identify supporting infrastructures (such as electricity and water) to the nation’s most critical food production and storage facilities and protect those infrastructures from all hazards.
- Update the 7-year-old “Food and Agriculture Sector Specific Plan” to make the above changes/actions programmatic and lasting.
State and local levels
- Rapidly identify supporting infrastructures (such as electricity and water) to the most critical state and local food production and storage facilities, and apply state and local resources and/or economic incentives to private industry for the protection of those infrastructures from all hazards.
- Update public messaging to warn state/local residents of the need to stock up on food supplies for a minimum of 90 days with the recommendation that they store as much long-term shelf stable food as possible.
- Task state and local emergency management agencies with exploring food storage options to reduce dependency on the federal government/FEMA.
- Work within the state and local governments as well as across borders with other states to avoid onerous or counterproductive regulations or mandates that hamper food production and distribution.
- Pass laws that require disclosure of foreign-owned agricultural land and critical infrastructures so that state and local governments are aware of potentially problematic influence or disruption of these infrastructures. [See Louisiana Senator Barry Milligan’s original Senate Bill 472 – the “Transparency in Ownership of Critical Infrastructure Law.”]
- Reduce state and local regulations that make it difficult for small agricultural businesses to bring their products to market.
- Promote locally grown, community agriculture, and farm-to-table policies that strengthen local farming and food processing, such as economic incentives for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) and for restaurants and grocers to choose food products from local farmers.
- Incentivize state colleges and private academic institutions to rapidly establish programs to draw from established disciplines of natural science (such as permaculture, regenerative agriculture, ecology, and biology) to promote “perennial food forests” that are suitable for urban, suburban, and rural environments.
- Incentivize the use of state- and locally-owned land into perennial food forests to increase local production of food and medicinal plants.
- Ensure that state governments and academic institutions funding food security-related studies are not funding a “research-industrial complex” but instead fund relevant, rapid, and actionable solutions to their states’ pressing food problems.
- Attitude: Apply food security to what we already do. Most individuals keep 30-day or more supplies of medicine and vitamins and save money for that ‘rainy day,’ illness, and retirement. We buy insurance to cover an event that’s unlikely to happen. Why not keep an extra supply of food? We must adjust our attitudes toward food security and encourage our families, neighbors, and communities to do the same.
- Determine caloric and dietary needs and gradually stock up. Not all at once, but a little at a time, buy a few extra items on each grocery trip until building an adequate supply of 90-days or longer.
- Increase self-sufficiency. This isn’t for everybody, but it’s possible even in cities for people to grow their own fruits, herbs, and vegetables, either individually or in groups, for their own consumption and trade. Revive the concept of the World War II Victory Gardens and explore creating your own perennial food forest for your own family or neighborhood.
- Community awareness. Any individual can spread awareness in his community about food security and how all can ensure plentiful supplies for themselves and others.
- Create a movement. Self-sufficiency for local food is not a political issue and has tremendous economic and cultural appeal. There is room for a movement to promote locally grown food production and commerce.
- Buy local. Buying local supports local growers and food processors to ensure direct farm-to-table supply chains to you. It’s usually more expensive than supermarkets, but those who can afford it should make the effort to strengthen local food growers and producers.
- Avoid buying Communist Chinese products. Create a demand for products not made in, or owned by, Communist China. Compile lists of American companies owned by Communist Chinese individuals or entities and boycott them. This will include many popular American brands.
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