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Living in the shadow of Worldwide Famine

America, the land of plenty, breadbasket of the world! For nearly 200 years American food stocks have comfortably fed America's people and for the past three decades filled much of the food needs of the increasing number of food-short nations.

To Western eyes, food shortages occur only in lands where gaunt oxen pull knotty wooden plows through impoverished soils amid squalid huts. Famine and hunger are problems south of the border or far across the ocean.

But could famines such as recently afflicted Sub-Sahara in Africa and Bangladesh ever strike in the prosperous developed nations of North America and Western Europe?


Record Drought in Breadbasket Nations

In recent months some of the worst droughts on record have hit key areas of the world.

Last summer the worst dry spell and heat wave in over a hundred years hit England, northwestern France, West Germany, northern Italy and parts of Belgium. For Britain the drought was the worst in 250 years. Extra food and animal fodder had to be imported to make up for the unprecedented drought.

In the United States, northern California, the Dakotas and Minnesota were especially hard hit by drought, as were sections of Colorado, Kansas and Nebraska.

Farmers in South Dakota and Minnesota have suffered the worst. Dale D. Gullickson, director of marketing and agricultural development for the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, calls it "the most serious drought in South Dakota this century." He estimates drought-related agricultural losses for the state for 1976 to be "around a billion dollars."

A report prepared by the drought task force in South Dakota says that "statewide, it can be seen that estimated crop production in 1976 is 55.5% below the average 1967-74 level." In some counties, crop decreases are estimated at 90% or more. As for cattle, according to the task force report, farmers and ranchers in 17 counties "are expected to experience a reduction in cattle numbers of more than 50%."

The Minnesota Farmers Union estimates drought losses in that state at $1.15 billion for 53 of 87 counties. According to one U.S. agriculture official: "The drought has been more intensely localized in South Dakota, parts of Minnesota and Iowa. But there has been a lack of rainfall in much of the region stretching from southern Wisconsin and western Ohio all the way to northern Missouri, eastern Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and southern Minnesota."

The ten-state region he outlined is often called the Corn Belt, but it accounts also for much of the country's production of soybeans, oats, hay, alfalfa and wheat, as well as beef and dairy cattle.

On America's west coast, California farmers, who provide much of the nation's food, lost more than $1 billion worth of crops during 1976 because of the winter drought, two harvest-time strikes, a damaging freeze and unseasonable rains. The California Farm Bureau warned on November 28 that another dry winter would produce a new round of severe agricultural losses. It called 1976 "one of the most damaging and frustrating production years in history."

"Nearly every farmer suffered to some extent, but for some time the losses were catastrophic," said Fred Heringer, bureau president.”Production from entire orchards was lost: cattlemen without feed or pasture were forced to liquidate."

Far from the United States, in Australia. one of the world's key food-exporting nations, drought conditions reduced a previously forecast 1976 wheat crop of 12 million tons to only around 8 million. In southern Australia many key cropland and grazing areas had no more than 10% of their normal rainfall during their 1976 growing season. Millions of sheep and thousands of head of cattle had to be killed.


Ominous Weather Trends

The paradox of overall near-record food crops in the U.S. at the same time of spotty but severe drought is no source of peace of mind to agricultural experts, who realize that the bountiful yields of recent years have largely been achieved through the release into production of lands once held in reserve. They also know that much of the credit for tremendous yield increases over the last 15 years should be attributed to optimum weather conditions which prevailed until 1974. According to John McQuigg, a leading government climatologist at the University of Missouri: "The probability of getting another fifteen consecutive years that good is about one in 10,000."

For the past several years, leading climatologists have been warning that the United States may be headed for some tough weather years if certain adverse weather cycles of the past are repeated. There is some pretty hard evidence that there have been at least eight successive dry periods east of the Rockies spaced 20 to 22 years apart. No one knows for sure why they occur, but there are plenty of theories (many focus on sunspot activity).

At the same time there appears to be a major global change in weather patterns. Many meteorologists feel a gradual cooling trend is going on, at least in the Northern Hemisphere. Other scientists are not sure.

Scientists generally do agree, however, with the observation of J. Murray Mitchell Jr. of the U.S. National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration: "From the agricultural productivity point of view the climate's not going to get better. It can only get worse . . . If there's anything we can be reasonably confident about in terms of projections of future climate, it is that the climate of our crop-growing areas will become more variable than it has been in the recent past" (emphasis ours throughout article).


Drought Already Overdue

According to leading weather officials, a major drought is already overdue in the American Great Plains — now the world's most important breadbasket. A few years ago, Dr. Walter Orr Roberts, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said: "I personally am watching very intently for a drought in the mid-1970's in the high plains."

Dr. Irving Krick, noted long-range weather forecaster, told Plain Truth researchers: "Now we think that the latter half of the seventies will bring more general drought extending from the Southwest up, encroaching farther north and east into the grain belts of Kansas, the corn areas of Iowa, Illinois, and so forth."

Dr. Stephen H. Schneider, research scientist at the Boulder, Colorado, weather research center, also told our interviewers in 1974: "I would say that the odds of having drought conditions in the seventies are probably higher than they were in the sixties without any theory at all — just because we've had a very good stretch in the last fifteen years in the United States."

Henry Lansford of the National Center for Atmospheric Research near Boulder, Colorado, adds that "it will not take an apocalyptic event such as the onset of a new ice age to bring human suffering from famine. Even if no long-term changes in climate are forthcoming, the immediate potential appears to be deadly serious. The climate trends that some scientists are predicting could bring us to a point of catastrophic consequences between the increasing population and inadequate food supplies much sooner than many people expect."

Finally, Reid Bryson, noted University of Wisconsin climatologist, says: "The evidence is now abundantly clear that the climate of the earth is changing in a direction that is not promising in terms of our ability to feed the world."