Eggs in One Basket?

By David Schmidt

Reprinted from: Animal Ag

Eggs in rows
University of Minnesota, Dave Hanson

Having all your eggs in one basket is not such a good idea if you should trip and fall.

When thinking about adapting to climate change I typically focus on what needs to happen on a specific farm, animal species, or geographic area. I don’t often think globally about the more important risk to the global food supply. Here are three things that have come to my attention in the last week regarding having all of our ‘eggs in one basket’.

  1. I was on one of the tours at the Waste to Worth meeting in Seattle last week. We were in Whatocom County (North Washington) and learned that the county had the bragging rights of producing 85% of the red raspberries in the state. A big number for sure but to top that – that county alone supplies 65% of the US supply of red raspberries.
  2. Minnesota has been in the news lately for the outbreak of Avian Influenza. Today we learned there have been outbreaks in two more barns bringing the total to nine barns and and that farmers will be euthanizing about 700,000 birds. There is no sign of the outbreak slowing. Euthanized birds represent only about 1% of the turkey population in Minnesota but nationally, they are #1 in turkey production supplying about 18% of the nations turkey. Minnesota along with three other states are responsible for about 50% of the nations turkey.
  3. California is in the fourth year of a drought, water is scarce, aquifers are being depleted. No secret there. It does not matter the cause of the drought, what I found interesting was the scale at which we rely on one area for our food. Here is a brief summary from USDA ERS that struck me as significant.
  • The 2012 Census of Agriculture reports that 22 percent of all U.S. farms growing fruit (including berries), tree nuts, and vegetables are in California, accounting for 43 percent of the total acreage for the sector.
  • Most of this acreage is under irrigation—specifically, 98 percent of the State’s land in orchards, 100 percent of the land in berries, and 100 percent of the land planted to vegetables.
  • California grows an overwhelming majority of the Nation’s grapes, strawberries, peaches, nectarines, avocados, raspberries, kiwifruit, olives, dates, and figs.
  • California’s tree nut production is the Nation’s largest, supplying virtually all U.S. almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.
  • California ranks second to Florida in citrus production but is the major supplier of citrus fruit for the fresh market. A vast majority of citrus acreage in the State is devoted to oranges. California also produces over 90 percent of U.S. lemons and more than 50 percent of U.S. tangerines.

I am not an expert in food production or risk management but common sense tells me that we are putting way to many eggs in one basket. I see climate change as just one of the many threats to this concentration of our food production system.

Always Considering Climate (and Eggs) — David

David Schmidt MS. PE is a researcher and educator in the Department of Bioproducts and Bioysystems Engineering at the University of Minnesota and regional project coordinator for the project Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate, a national project of the Livestock and Poultry Environmental Learning Center and funded by the USDA National

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