Response to WPR106 Infomagic is a Pollyanna : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Thanks Peggy Stewart. It was good to see someone starting to really add up what the nightmare that non-compliant agribusiness could mean to ALL OF US.

A couple points that I can add that make that bleakest scenario just a little bit more plausible, at least in my mind.

Agriculture, in Nebraska, is in a serious recession, if not depression right now. Corn selling for less than $2/bushel, fat hogs selling for $25 (heck the last feeder piglets I bought cost that much) and a lot of farmers are now really hurting. Our local banker has predicted that 20% of the local farmers would be out of business before 99 is over. And there are a lot of auctions going on right now.

Few farms are in any financial position to purchase their 99 supplies, let alone stockpile for 00. A credit crunch due to 1999 banking troubles would make this even more impossible.

And the self sufficient farm lifestyle is rarer than you might think. Agribusiness has taken over Agriculture as a lifestyle, at least in our area. We are one of the few families in the county that raise chickens anymore, one of the few that seriously garden (more than a few rows of bean, sweet corn, and a few tomatoes) and can the majority of our food.

Now, with most, the wife works in town, and the kids are endlessly tied down with school and extra curricular activities. There just isnt enough time to do these things anymore. We are exceptions in our area, growing most of what we eat. Peggy Stuart is right, most farmers get their food from Piggly Wigglies, not from their own homestead.

Agriculture is time dependant in the extreme. The weather gives you windows of opportunity to work, and the chemicals and fuel had darn well better be there when the sun finally breaks through the clouds. Any shortages or delivery delays will have a negative impact.

Plus, large areas with somewhat hostile weather (ours for instance) will grow little without abundant irrigation, which is dependant on fuel and electricity supplies. I know there are other areas that are not as irrigation dependant, but with our hot, dry Nebraska summers, irrigation is a necessity, and you just cant grow some crops without it.

Certain agriculture methods common today, such as low-till farming, are extremely dependant on lots petrochemicals to make work at all.

My father is the real farmer here. He is a Y2K GI His response to the prospect of disruptions, shortages, the need to stockpile everything, and general Y2K hardships? I guess well just leave it all unplanted. He feels he is too old to shift gears now. And since most active farmers are in their late 50s/60s, how many more will feel the same?

I have a sinking feeling that if there was serious fuel and chemical disruptions and most farms would be hard pressed to feed the eight people that they fed in 1898.

-- Booster C. (, January 03, 1999


Great. Peggy Stewart is a pollyana. Someone was just asking "geez bad can it get???" (see Never Never Land a few threads back).

Just more nails for the pollyanna coffin.

-- a (a@a.a), January 03, 1999.

Booster - thanks for the post - I've been taking an interest in your line of work for a while now.

BTW did anyone catch the recent documentary on PBS over Christmas about the farm couple strugling to make a living? - really brought home how tough farming can be these days.

If anyone is interested, I highly reccommend reading the following link:-

This is a snippet from the start:-

"It's crunch time. Here comes 1999, and it promises to be a dilly. Not since the days when guns replaced sharpened hunting sticks, and grain mills replaced crude, hand-hewn mortars and pestles, has a year's rollover meant more to the question of whether or not there will be enough food for the future. Simply put, what we do"as nations, states, businesses, families and individuals"in the next twelve months, may well determine what, when, and if we will eat in the year 2000 and beyond.

Over the past three years, I have been sounding an alarm that our food supply is much less safe and secure than any of us can imagine, largely due to vulnerabilities wrought by the same technology that has brought us so much food. We've created a monster, and the monster's about to get sick. If you come to the same conclusion, it will raise your anxiety level. Most of us don't need anymore anxiety in our lives, yet the flip side of that is that it is better to know, when you might be able to do something about it, than not to know and be helpless to change the outcome. It is with some apprehension that I offer some thoughts about the bigger food supply picture for 1999 and prospects for Y2K.

We will redefine food in the year 2000. It may take a little while, but that must-have-super-size-fried-double-whopper-with-bacon-and- cheese-with-cherries-ga rcia-and-big-gulp-chasers will be metamorphosed into a grateful-to-have-bowl-of-vegetable-soup-with- homemade-bread-with-water-chaser. And remember, if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.

Despite the calm reassurances and optimistic projections of elected leaders, appointed agency heads and corporate CEOs, the ugly truth about our collective, global impotence to purge our infrastructure of the so-called Millennium Bug is leaking, seeping, oozing out. The Millennium Bug is the Ebola of our technology based existence. There is no cure for Ebola, and it will infect the computer-dependent food supply monster in the year 2000. Unless we hear and see proof, in the next few months, that the complex production, processing, distribution and sales limbs of the beast are fixed"or that effective contingency plans are in place"increasing public awareness and the resulting panic will make it sick well before the close of 1999..."

-- Andy (, January 03, 1999.

Booster" Thanks for the great post. I wonder if this is the same scenerio across the nation. I live in northern California where the rice farmers are dependent on water and electricity to farm rice. We export rice, so I can only imagine what the impact will be on millions who depend on it as their main staple. Isn't it ironic that a computer, which has made life easier for the human race, will soon become it's curse.

-- bardou (, January 03, 1999.

After reading Peggy Stewarts comments, I forwarded them to an aquaintance who is also a farmer and asked for his comments. I thought you might be interested in his response (reposted here with permission):

Some notes as I read through the article:

1. With respect to chickens (and increasingly, to pork), this writer is herself a little behind the curve. Not only do farmers not raise their own chicks now, extremely few raise chickens or produce eggs, period. Few foods are produced under as much concentration as chicken. Tyson and Purdue (sp?) account for the lion's share of chicken. I can't give you the percentages, but it's high. There are lots of family farmers raising chickens in the south, but they're generally under contract to Tyson or someone similar.

Pork is rapidly going the same way... with the wrinkle that at today's prices, even the huge operations can't make it. Prices will rebound, and then the alreadly dwindling numbers of farmers raising hogs will be smaller yet. Several in our county are going under this year -- middle-aged people who have made their living at it for 20-30 years. I quit raising cattle this year for the same reasons, but hogs have been worse.

2. Our corn is hybid-grown, so it wouldn't do much if we planted saved-seed. Soybeans are not hybrid plants, however, and we could grow next year's crop from what's in the bin... if we had the other necessary inputs, which includes spare parts and LOTS of diesel fuel. And, for most, operating money from a bank.

3.The author writes: "Given a world population of 5.9 billion, that means there are 28 million farmers. If those 28 million farmers had only the tools and techniques of the last century they could support 8 people. That projects a carrying capacity of 224,000,000. For comparison, that is the estimated world population during the Roman Empire and again at the turn of the first Millenium of the Current Era."

I don't think the 212:1 figure is for the world population, just for the U.S. In the third world and even in nations such as Russia (let alone China), the ratio would be far lower. Which means that the standard of living comparison between us and them might be inverted if we lose our technology.

4. Loss of arable land to development? I think that would be a miniscule factor, on balance, if Y2K strikes hard.

Personally, I'd put "loss of national character" on the list a *whole* lot higher than "loss of arable land", whether we're looking at effects on agriculture or any other aspect of the Y2K problem.

Lastly, someone saw a program on TV the other day that made a big thing of the impact on agriculture of losing the GPS satellites -- because farmers use them now in combines, etc. Very few farmers have that equipment now, and there probably aren't 100 farmers in the nation whose operations would be set back more than a day if they had to quit using them. So that program was sensationalistic hype. Which is unfortunate, since that sort of thing discredits responsible reporting. If basic infrastructure folds, agriculture "as we know it" will, too... not because of GPS systems in tractors, but for the same reasons as for all other industrial production. And I would add that farmers generally don't seem to be very concerned about Y2K.

As an addendum, it's interesting to think back on observations I heard repeatedly from visitors to the Soviet Union over the years. They tended to be struck by -- and mention -- the sight of large, expensive farm machinery ($75,000+ harvesters and tractors) sitting indefinitely in the fields of collective farms where they stopped for lack of spare parts. Horsedrawn equipment subsequently used to farm the land had to steer around the parked iron.

One imagines that centralized national authority would be invoked to channel resources to vital industries in a Y2K-crippled economy... and that's just how it "worked" in the Soviet Union :-)

End of quoted message. Certainly food for thought.

-- Arnie Rimmer (, January 03, 1999.

Looks like Clinton will have to devise a "Farmers Unification Plan" ;-)

(Yes folks, I've finaly finished reading Atlas Shrugged, LOL)

-- Chris (, January 04, 1999.

April 15, 1998

-- Mitchell Barnes (, January 04, 1999.

As someone who grew up on a working dairy farm, and who farmed after college for several years, I have to agree with the majority of points made by Peggy. All farmers that we knew concentrated on one product only, i.e. dairy farmers produce milk and nothing else. Many still have large gardens, but less and less so, as most are too busy to devote that much time to a garden. All farmers that we knew planted only hybrid seed, and required large quantities of fertilizer for planting every spring. If hybrid seed supplies are cut off, there will be no planting, for farmers have nothing else to plant.

Although we had a tractor-driven generator to keep the milk cooler and electric milkers going during power outages, and long term power outage would be disasterous. Milk that cannot be kept constantly cool must be disposed of. Most dairy farmers cannot hold more than 1 or 2 days worth of milk anyway, so if the milk hauler is unable to pick it up, due to inavailability of gasoline, it must be disposed of anyway. It's hard to see how agriculture as we have come to depend upon it can survive y2k without major upheavals.

-- Tom Knepper (, January 05, 1999.

Really good thread, people. As a no-longer farmboy now grown up and gone (but on the way back) I can vouch for the accuracy of the commentary above as applied to the area I grew up (central Alabama) and the area where I now live (eastern NC). I still live in what passes for 'country' here. Almost no one has livestock of any sort, including chickens, in either place. Few grow large gardens. In AL a lot of former pasture land and fields which once grew crops are now planted in pine trees and are unlikely to ever see a plow again (most people don't even know what 'clearing new ground' means any more). Here in NC homes and suburbs are taking over.

If you expect 2k to be rocky you'd better count on gettng your hands dirty. You needed the land and experience and tools and seed a couple of years ago to get started on the learning curve. You may well be up against it if you've never gardened before. Or raised pigs or goats or chickens. Subsistence farming is a neverending backbreaking frustrating way to live, at least a certain amount of the time. Not to mention dangerous as well. The "simple pleasures" are there but you have to be physically and psychologically adapted to find them and appreciate them. It's not easy or fun but granted it will beat a lot of the alternatives if 2k is a "10". Keep in mind too that right now rice, wheat and beans are still easily available and cheap... .

How many subsistence farmers or 'truck' farmers (as opposed to monocropping agribusnessmen) do you know? How many can you find if you went looking? If you think you can head for the hills (or plow up the front lawn and put a henhouse in the back yard) and get by with no previous experience you'd better be looking for a teacher. You'll need the help. I'm not saying you can't do it- just be sure you know what you're getting into.

-- gi (, January 05, 1999.

The name of the show on PBS is called: "The Farmer's Wife" and is an excellent, in depth, very personal look at the farmer, his wife and 3 daughters, that takes place in about a 3 year period.

They made hardly any money. Everything they supposedly "owned" really belonged to the government agency that lent them the money. They couldn't even kill one of their own steer for food.

This woman had something like $30 a week to feed her family and could barely get by on that.

Her daughter had an ear ache and couldn't go to the dr's cause they couldn't afford it. They argued a lot and I just wondered after watching, why, why would anyone want to live that kind of life? Too much of farming depends on outside circumstances as opposed to what you, yourself, can do.

Go to and look for The Farmer's Wife and watch'll never look at farmer's the same way again (and you'll definately want to shake their hand if you ever meet them )

-- Sub-Mitt (, January 05, 1999.

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