Here's a weird thing. Farmers in the Dakotas and across much of the mid west are losing out in the propane supply line. Apparently they are too far from the pipe lines to make it worthwhile to ship fuel all the way out to their farms so food crops are at risk. There is a report in the 27th November Daily Kos reporting crops are likely to fall short in 2009. Apparently the crops being harvested this fall are wetter than usual and propane isn't being delivered and there is a good chance crops may go bad in storage unless they are dried out. If they aren't fertilized they lose protein value- which is anew one on me! Furthermore crops left in the ground will retain snow cover and delay planting the soy crop which needs dry land. All of which means exports will be down and people around the world dependant on cheap abundant US food will go short..
All of which seems bad enough but it gets worse. Crop insurance is failing too as one of the larger insurers is mysteriously not paying claims- possibly as a prelude to going bankrupt. The lack of insurance is prompting banks to stop advancing money on an unsecured projected crop. The vicious circle gets ever more tight and nasty as farmers now find themselves without insurance and without financing as banks won't lend if there isn't any insurance. Family farms may end up being done in, not by Monsanto, but by the credit crisis. Larger farms may also be at risk from this combination of insurance/credit/fuel shortfall.
What I find extraordinary about our spiralling economic situation is how interrelated everything is. And I understand intellectually that globalisation and modernization have joined everything together at the hip. However seeing the effects of this unravelling web gives me a sense of foreboding and helplessness that is decidedly unpleasant. So far the commentators keep talking about shortages and unrest in the rest of the planet as though these phenomena are not part of our world, here in the US. Our problems translate into hardship elsewhere. Egypt was mentioned as one location in the Kos article. Which is reassuring in a rather selfish sort of way. However I wonder how long before a failing corn crop in large parts of the US doesn't do bad things to our own food supply? What then?