Most of America has been suffering under “safe at home” orders for almost a month. Because of the Corona Virus, or as it is technically called, COVID19, grocery stores have had limited hours and Americans have gone to their grocery stores to find many empty shelves.
The virus originated in China. How it got started and how it spread are still the subject of a lot of debate. Something else that has been the subject of much debate is how dependent the United States is on China. Thanks to bad trade agreements, much of our commercial infrastructure has been outsourced to China for production.
When the United States needed personal protective gear for our healthcare workers, guess what? We could not get it because all of our manufacturing had moved to China and China had already bought up the supplies. We discovered that China was now manufacturing most of our medicines and China threatened to withhold exports of medicines to the United States.
America has another problem that was highlighted when the virus panic first hit. Grocery stores saw spot shortages of certain food and other supplies. A month into this, toilet paper remains hard to find. Fortunately, for the moment, the supply chain remains strong.
We are able to keep the supply chain open because China is not a major source of food for the United States and the international disruption has not been extreme.
What happens if it were?
There are some food we import into the United States because we can’t grow them here. Some foods are not in season and some, like coffee, will not grow here. But there is another problem. That is foods that are grown here but not grown enough to meet our national demand because of unfair trade practices.
Many nations unfairly subsidize certain products they export, and, in many cases, our farmers cannot compete with subsidized exports. Sugar is a great example of this.
Sugar is a crucial commodity. Sugar is used in an amazing number of foods in the United States. The United States does produce sugar but American sugar farmers face devastating competition from nations that subsidize their sugar exports.
Sugar, just being used as an example here, is an incredibly crucial commodity. During the Second World War, it was the first foodstuff rationed and the last to be taken off of rationing. Sugar is used in all types of foods. What happens if the United States cannot produce all of the sugar it needs and there is another global crisis like COVID19?
What happens if America is not food self-sufficient the next time there is a global crisis that disrupts trade? This is a dystopian vision no one wants to see. Imagine hours long lines at the grocery store, just to buy a loaf of bread and a pound of hamburger.
This is the reality we could face if America is not food self-sufficient.
COVID19 was a wakeup call. America needs to bring all crucial forms of manufacturing and production back to this country. And we need to make sure that our trade policies ensure that American farmers remain employed, profitable and prepared to feed America in the event of another global crisis.