Food shortages in AK!

Today’s post is a bit unsettling to me. I’ve read about recent food shortages and rationing in Haiti, Africa, and Eastern Europe but thought it was a long way away. I live in Alaska, part of the USA land of plenty. Food rationing and shortages are things of history textbooks or after natural disasters here.

That was until I went to Sam’s Club on Friday. There were signs on the aisles with grain products (flour, sugar, rice, etc) saying due to shortages they were having to ration. Sales were limited to a total of four bags. That’s not four bags of each thing but four bags total! They were out of yeast on the shelf. A man asked a clerk and he went and found the last half box which held 6 packages. I took one, the other man took one which left just four. There were only 2 50-pound bags of flour; one of them was ripped and I took the other. The 25-pound flour and sugar bags were about half gone. There was NO rice of any variety and they didn’t know when they would get more. About the only thing they seemed to have a lot of was salt. I have NEVER seen the grain aisle so low before.

We have also had periodic milk and dairy shortages since Northern Lights Dairy shut down a few months ago. Occasionally in the past they have been out of a certain brand of dairy products but usually not out entirely. However recently, they have been totally out at times with a majority of the dairy cases empty. I can understand this at holidays when stores may under anticipate demand, but the last time was just an ordinary day. I went to both Fred Meyer and Safeway and found similarly empty dairy cases.

Its scary to see empty shelves of basic staples. It makes me wonder what lies ahead with soaring fuel prices. Farmers are cutting back. My dad told me about a hog farmer who had to get rid of half his pigs because he couldn’t afford to feed them. I don’t know how it will affect grain growers yet. They are having to use the money from last year’s harvest to plant this year with even higher fuel, seed grain, and fertilizer costs. Perhaps they will have to plant less. This will increase food prices even more. Unfortunately, a lot of the increases are after the farmers so they will still be struggling.

I do not believe the biofuels industry is to blame in the food shortages. Most of it is due to large crop failures and natural disasters destroying crops worldwide. The biofuels industry is a scape goat. The high grain prices are hurting everyone. There have actually been a number of biofuels plants that have shut down or gone bankrupt because of the high cost of grains they use. Several plants use non-edible versions of corn, animal byproducts such as tallow, or used fryer oils and therefore are actually helping to keep food costs lower.

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