I have no egrets
- Jun 2, 2020
Disclaimer: Leading up to the Stock Market Crash of 1929 approximately 10% of American households held stock investments and speculated in the market. Yet, nearly a third would lose their lifelong savings and jobs in the ensuing Depression. In current year the wealthiest 10% of Americans own a record 89% of all U.S. stocks. The following document is written at a level meant for the majority of Americans and those who may have little understanding of how monetary policy and investing works. If the financial information is too basic for you, skip to the agricultural section. Nothing here constitutes financial advice and it can barely be called a prediction. Most of the data aggregated below is currently publicly available, or based on events that have been announced to occur in the near future.
The purpose of this post is as follows; (a) to be informative and serve as a public service announcement for a potentially calamitous Happening, and (b) to keep track of the human carnage that is likely to result from aforementioned calamitous Happening.
How it started
For those who are unaware the Federal Reserve has been engaging in shenanigans since 2008 or so when then President Obama signed off on the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help bring the country out of the Recession resulting from the stock market collapse of 2008. Economic stimulus packages can involve a variety of moving parts, but they are based in the theories of John Maynard Keynes. During the Great Depression of the 1930s Keynes proposed an alternate approach to reviving a depressed market which would come to be known as Keynesian Economics. In its most basic form the concept is as follows:
Keynes rejected the idea that the economy would return to a natural state of equilibrium. Instead, he argued that once an economic downturn sets in, for whatever reason, the fear and gloom that it engenders among businesses and investors will tend to become self-fulfilling and can lead to a sustained period of depressed economic activity and unemployment. In response to this, Keynes advocated a countercyclical fiscal policy in which, during periods of economic woe, the government should undertake deficit spending to make up for the decline in investment and boost consumer spending in order to stabilize aggregate demand.
According to Keynes's theory of fiscal stimulus, an injection of government spending eventually leads to added business activity and even more spending. This theory proposes that spending boosts aggregate output and generates more income. If workers are willing to spend their extra income, the resulting growth in the gross domestic product( GDP) could be even greater than the initial stimulus amount.
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This is the core idea behind Keynesian Economics, and must remain such for the purposes of this post, or this would turn into a novel about hotly debated fiscal policy theories. This simplified version is important because it explains the basic principles behind the Federal Reserve and Federal Government's approach to dealing with economic downturns, and is relevant to how they chose to address the impact of Covid lockdown policies. In response to Covid and the impact Covid policies had on the economy, the Federal Government released three more stimulus packages; the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020, the Families First Coronavirus Act, 2020, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, 2020. There were also several smaller, complimentary bills. Here is a full list if you care.
In addition to these government stimulus packages, the Federal Reserve has the option to engage in Quantitative Easing to revive the economy, and did exactly that in 2008. 2020 saw even more QE, which has been ongoing to the time of this writing. The idea behind QE is as follows:
Quantitative easing (QE) is a form of unconventional monetary policy in which a central bank purchases longer-term securities from the open market in order to increase the money supply and encourage lending and investment. Buying these securities adds new money to the economy, and also serves to lower interest rates by bidding up fixed-income securities. It also expands the central bank's balance sheet.
How it's going
This is a chart showing the total assets of the Federal Reserve.
This is a chart showing public debt as a percentage of the GDP.
This is a chart showing total public debt.
(Source archive) This article draws from information found here: M1 (DISCONTINUED), M2
Every Thursday, at approximately 4:30 p.m., the Federal Reserve provides a report on its balance sheet as of the prior day. It’s known as the H.4.1 report or the Wednesday Level report.
On Thursday, September 4, 2008, the Fed’s H.4.1 report showed a $935 billion balance sheet as of Wednesday, September 3, 2008. That was 12 days before iconic financial institutions on Wall Street began to blow up in what became the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. As of last Wednesday, February 17, 2021, the Fed’s balance sheet stood at $7.6 trillion – an increase of 712.83 percent in less than 13 years.
The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 and such a staggering growth in its balance sheet has not occurred at any other period in U.S. history — not during the Great Depression, not even during or after World War II.
What has changed the course of economic history in the United States and put the country on a debt-fueled disaster course is the Wall Street crash of 2008 and the bailouts, both monetary and fiscal, that have followed ever since, together with the unwillingness of Congress to confront this reality.
The charts above showing the unprecedented growth in the federal debt and federal debt versus GDP since the Wall Street crash of 2008 confirm this thesis.
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The Everything Bubble
@mindlessobserver has a thread in The Bidness subforum where he goes over everything I've just discussed in greater detail. It is my sincere hope that everything covered above has provided you with the fundamentals to grasp what he is saying there. I have quoted his explanation of The Everything Bubble to bolster my own arguments, but don't hesitate to visit his thread for updates on the state of the market.
If you find that you have targeted questions after reading this post, @Simple Moving Average has a thread in The Bidness subforum as well, and has generously volunteered his time to address specific concerns. He's a smart guy, so ask him smart questions.
*I have made a few minor edits to this for the sake of clarity.
I think what we are facing here is a dreaded "Everything" bubble. Removal of regulatory safeguards and over financialization of the entire economy has integrated the Bond Market at every level. Something that has traditionally not happened before. Because the idea of selling debt you own is a very recent phenomena. It used to be if you issued a loan, you had to sit and wait for the person holding the loan to pay you back before you could turn around and use your earnings. Now though you can loan money to Disney and then immediately turn around and sell that loan to someone else. Or securitize it and use it to back other things you are doing. Even count it as an "asset" for when you want to borrow money yourself. It creates a vicious snowball rolling down the hill, and the Federal Reserve is miles and miles of pristine snow ready to feed it and make it bigger and bigger.
This means EVERY asset class is increasing in value completely unmoored to actual market conditions. Including the US Dollar itself. People have been wondering "where is the inflation", because all common sense indicates that all this free money should cause inflation. Well, the inflation is occurring ... in the amount of Bonds. In the value of stocks. That is where the inflation is and it is absolutely eyewatering. And thanks to the financial Jiu Jitsu of the Fed, the US Dollar is covering it all. Which means that the value of the dollar has likewise increased to accommodate the new higher prices. Also completely unmoored to basic financial realities. I also question just how clear even the Fed is anymore on just where all the money actually is. I don't think they know. They CAN'T know. Who owns whose debts when debt can be sold, traded, securitized, and passed through any number of hands? This is what blew up the economy in 2008, and in that case it was just in the housing market. This time its ALL the Markets. Not just housing. All these banks are playing a game of hot potato with increasingly bad corporate and government debts, but the moment the music looks like its about to stop and one of the banks is holding the potato, the Federal Reserve swoops in, buys the potato, and restarts the music.
But this means there is a huge pile of potatoes accumulating, and I am very afraid of what this might mean. If this is an "Everything" bubble, even traditional safe havens like Gold and Silver won't be entirely safe. I would like to think Crypto Currency is safe, but I have serious questions there too when we consider the price of Bitcoin.
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Here are two articles for the consideration of those who are looking into Cryptocurrencies as a potential safe haven for their funds:
• IRS sees crypto seizures totalling billions of dollars in 2022
• Cryptocurrency faces a quantum computing problem
A Strong US Dollar and the Global Economy
For those who are unaware, the US dollar is the reserve currency of the world. A reserve currency (or anchor currency) is a foreign currency that is held in significant quantities by central banks or other monetary authorities as part of their foreign exchange reserves. The reserve currency can be used in international transactions, international investments and all aspects of the global economy. It is often considered a hard currency or safe-haven currency. If the global economy were healthy then the US dollar could weaken and another country's currency could assume the role of reserve currency. However, if we look at the GDP projections from major nations, we see an alarming trend.
The GDP of most of the countries with currencies that would be attractive as a substitute reserve currency are currently underwater. This is important because the GDP is a widely accepted measurement of the health of any given country's economy, so all of these countries have severe issues and there is no good fallback position as far as reserve currency is concerned. The OECD website offers additional graphs if you are bored and want to look into them.
So, what's all the fuss about?
Everything mentioned above can be summarized, effectively, as the Federal Reserve keeping the United States economy on life support. By pumping massive amounts of money into the system they have created the appearance it is healthy while systematically undermining the stability of the market. The reason this is concerning is because the Fed is on the verge of cutting their bond buying spree in an effort to combat inflation. Interest rate hikes may or may not follow soon after that, and could compound the problem significantly. Interest rate hikes result in the following:
When the Federal Reserve acts to increase the discount rate, it immediately elevates short-term borrowing costs for financial institutions. This has a ripple effect on virtually all other borrowing costs for companies and consumers in an economy.
Because it costs financial institutions more to borrow money, these same financial institutions often increase the rates they charge their customers to borrow money. So individual consumers are impacted through increases to their credit card and mortgage interest rates, especially if these loans carry a variable interest rate. When the interest rate for credit cards and mortgages increases, the amount of money that consumers can spend decreases.
Consumers still have to pay their bills. When those bills become more expensive, households are left with less disposable income. When consumers have less discretionary spending money, businesses' revenues and profits decrease.
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The Fed has recently announced the end to its tapering and an eye towards more aggressive measures.
The vice-chair of the US Federal Reserve on Friday opened the door to a faster withdrawal of its massive bond-buying programme, suggesting the central bank could take earlier-than-expected action to tame inflation.
Richard Clarida said the Federal Open Market Committee could consider discussing the pace of the planned “taper” at its upcoming policy meeting in December.
Unsurprisingly, large banks are doomsaying: Bank of America is warning that investors are overestimating earnings growth far more than they did during the dot-com bubble — setting up stocks to drop 20% over the next 12 months.
There is also the looming possibility the United States could default on its debt.
If you still think it's a joke, here's the latest update: Stocks plummet over Omicron fears: Dow drops 500 points as Fed Chair Jerome Powell warns new super strain could keep people working from home and worsen inflation
But wait! There's more!Much like the Great Depression was compounded by the natural disaster of the Dust Bowl, our current day situation is made that much more precarious by the impacts of the Global Supply Chain Crisis on agriculture industries around the globe. Some of these problems have been compounded by the La Niña weather cycle we are currently in, and some threaten to worsen as the La Niña draws to a close. It largely depends on what country is being discussed. At the moment this is the more 'exciting' portion of this Happening, as famines have already struck in several countries. Below is an overview of where people are starving, China's machinations in regards to agricultural industries around the world, and a brief summary of what a La Niña is and how it comes into the picture. Immediately below, in the drop-down, you will find a pair of videos that cover much of what this post has covered. If you are already familiar with the underpinnings of these issues, or you simply do better with video summaries, then try watching them. They're concise and well made. If you enjoy them, Epic Economist has a channel that is regularly updated with more videos in the same vein. Smug Frezia supplies some good additional videos on page 5, but I'm limited on media I can include in the OP. Follow this link to check them out.
There are multiple famines on-going currently, today, in multiple countries. The WFP is warning of catastrophic levels of hunger -- children eating their own hands type hunger -- due to famines in Afghanistan, Sudan, Angola, Ethiopia, Madagascar, and at least 43 other countries. Lebanon is currently undergoing a complete economic collapse that is exacerbating issues in the Middle East and northern Africa. Kiwi Farms has threads for following the collapse of several of these countries:
Kiwi Threads about places undergoing famine as well as economic collapse:
South Africa Collapses
Taliban Offensive of 2021 and the Collapse of the Afghan Government
Civil War in Ethiopia
General humanitarian crisis / economic collapse:
Cuba Protests Ongoing
Evergrande Financial Panic (China)
Economic collapses and famines (Non-Kiwi sources):
‘Watching Titanic Head Into An Iceberg’: Koji Yano’s Views on Financial Collapse Spark Debate (Japan)
Analysis: How Tunisia reached financial meltdown
Turkey Currency Crisis Threatens Economy, Posing Challenge to Erdogan Rule
Warning signs for South Africa: Red flags that signal a country’s pending financial collapse (This is a two-fer, as they discuss SA in the context of Lebanon).
Turkish lira crisis hits Idlib in Syria
Cash-strapped Lebanon wakes up to countrywide roadblocks
As millions face famine #CongoIsStarving is calling on Joe Biden to help (Imagine thinking Joe Biden will help you. lol.)
Famine takes a grip of Latin America and the Caribbean
Other good threads to check out:
Australian Totalitarian Megathread
Chinese Communist Party Megathread
Serbia Gives 24 Hour Notice to Kosovo
It's Not Climate Change; It's a La Niña
Disclaimer: I am not saying human activity cannot impact the climate. The point I am making is that every major weather event in the last year has been declared a sign of 'climate change', when in reality it's a very predictable weather pattern that has been recorded as far back as the 1700s. It's possible pollution and human activity has exacerbated this weather pattern, but the media is still being disingenuous.
For anyone who isn't aware how a La Niña works, I will summarize; Africa and the Middle East experience blistering heat waves and drought, North America gets hit with monsoon rains along the western seaboard (this is happening now, today) and elsewhere. Brazil gets epic growing weather; lots of rain and warm, tropical temps. Chile and Peru get drought. China on average experiences colder weather in the range of 2 degrees. Australia may be cooler and see more rain. Europe gets such a mixed bag of results that not even Wiki bothers explaining it, though it is worth mentioning that many of their crops went unharvested and rotted in the fields due to labor shortages.
Pay attention to that China video, because that's going to be the US once winter hits. Maine is fucked. Massachusetts still can't get snow plow drivers and is also on the menu to get wrekt.
This is important because the Arctic blast that hit Texas last winter is the reason we have no poultry and chicken prices are through the roof. If you can't get chicks there aren't any chickens. That's just how the poultry industry operates. With the way things are shaping up, Texas may have another bad winter.
The Coombs said the hatchery they get chicks from was severely impacted by a deep freeze earlier this year in Texas. They received a third of the birds they were hoping for, and got them a few weeks later than normal. These turkeys have less time to grow.
Here are two articles that are MUST READS if you want to understand how the supply chain issues, labor shortages, and shortages of fertilizer, fuel, and herbicides are going to impact next year. If the good growing conditions for North and South America end with the closing of the La Niña season and yields are normal or below average, there will be food shortages stemming from lack of available crops.
Crunch at Ports May Mean Crisis for American FarmsBacklogs and cancellations are hitting growers as costs rise, profits slump and overseas customers shop elsewhere.
By Ana Swanson
It’s just 60 miles from El Dorado Dairy in Ontario, Calif., to the nation’s largest container port in Los Angeles. But the farm is having little luck getting its products onto a ship headed for the foreign markets that are crucial to its business.
- Nov. 14, 2021
The farm is part of one of the nation’s largest cooperatives, California Dairies Inc., which manufactures milk powder for factories in Southeast Asia and Mexico that use it to make candy, baby formula and other foods. The company typically ships 50 million pounds of its milk powder and butter out of ports each month. But roughly 60 percent of the company’s bookings on outbound vessels have been canceled or deferred in recent months, resulting in about $45 million in missed revenue per month.
“This is not just a problem, it’s not just an inconvenience, it’s catastrophic,” said Brad Anderson, the chief executive of California Dairies.
A supply chain crisis for imports has grabbed national headlines and attracted the attention of the Biden administration, as shoppers fret about securing gifts in time for the holidays and as strong consumer demand for couches, electronics, toys and clothing pushes inflation to its highest level in three decades.
Yet another crisis is also unfolding for American farm exports.
The same congestion at U.S. ports and shortage of truck drivers that have brought the flow of some goods to a halt have also left farmers struggling to get their cargo abroad and fulfill contracts before food supplies go bad. Ships now take weeks, rather than days, to unload at the ports, and backed-up shippers are so desperate to return to Asia to pick up more goods that they often leave the United States with empty containers rather than wait for American farmers to fill them up.
The National Milk Producers Federation estimates that shipping disruptions have cost the U.S. dairy industry nearly $1 billion in the first half of the year in terms of higher shipping and inventory costs, lost export volume and price deterioration.
“Exports are a huge issue for the U.S. right now,” said Jason Parker, the head of global trucking and intermodal at Flexport, a logistics company. “Getting exports out of the country is actually harder than getting imports into the country.”
Agriculture accounts for about one-tenth of America’s goods exports, and roughly 20 percent of what U.S. farmers and ranchers produce is sent abroad. The industry depends on an intricate choreography of refrigerated trucks, railcars, cargo ships and warehouses that move fresh products around the globe, often seamlessly and unnoticed.
U.S. farm exports have risen strongly this year, as the industry bounces back from the pandemic and benefits from a trade deal with China that required purchases of American agricultural products. Strong global demand for food and soaring commodities prices have lifted the value of U.S. agricultural exports more than 20 percent over last year.
Still, exporters say they are leaving significant amounts of money on the table as a result of supply chain problems. And many farmers are now struggling to keep up with soaring costs for materials like fertilizer, air filters, pallets and packaging, as well as find farmhands and drivers to move their goods.
A survey by the Agriculture Transportation Coalition, which represents exporters, found that 22 percent of foreign agriculture sales on average were being lost as a result of transportation challenges.
Delays at ports have particularly hurt products that move in corrugated metal containers, like cheese, butter, meat, walnuts and cotton.
One company, Talmera USA Inc., which exports milk powder, cheese and dairy ingredients like lactose, had a shipment delayed so many times that its load finally wound up on the original vessel it was assigned to after the ship had left the port in Seattle, circumnavigated Asia and returned weeks later.
Mr. Anderson said that his company’s customers were beginning to look to suppliers in Europe, New Zealand and other countries for their purchases, even though the U.S. dairy industry has a reputation for high quality. “Frankly none of that matters to the customer if we can’t get it there,” he said.
Part of the problem is that shipping companies are able to charge far more to ferry goods from Asia to the United States than vice versa, so they don’t want to waste time waiting for a less lucrative load departing from the West Coast.
According to data from Freightos, an online freight marketplace, the cost to ship a 40-foot container from Asia to the U.S. West Coast soared to $18,730 in November — more than 17 times what it cost to make the reverse trip.
Prices to Ship Containers to U.S. From Asia Have SoaredShipping cargo east across the Pacific to the Western United States is far more lucrative than the same trip in reverse.
Price per 40-foot container
As a result, more than 80 percent of the 434,000 20-foot containers exported out of the Port of Los Angeles in September were empty — up from about two-thirds in September 2020 and September 2019.
Mario Cordero, the executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said that the price differential encouraged shipping companies to get their containers “back to Asia A.S.A.P. so you can load it with import items.”
“And unfortunately the American exporter is impacted by this approach,” he said.
A supply crunch in the trucking industry is also affecting farmers, as truckers find better pay and hours delivering holiday gifts than hauling soybeans and swine.
Tony Clayton, the president of Clayton Agri-Marketing Inc., in Jefferson City, Mo, exports live animals around the world for breeding. He said the company is competing at both ports and airports for space for dairy heifers, swine and goats. And many livestock truckers have found that they can earn more hauling dry freight.
“It is a challenge,” Mr. Clayton said. “We’re all fighting and competing for those people who will sit behind the steering wheel.”
The infrastructure bill that Congress passed on Nov. 5 aims to remedy supply chain backlogs by investing $17 billion in American ports, many of which rank among the least efficient in the world.
Agricultural exporters have had to get creative to bypass congested ports and warehouses. Mr. Anderson said his company was considering rerouting some shipments more than a thousand miles to the port in Vancouver.
Mike Durkin, the chief executive of Leprino Foods Company, the world’s largest maker of mozzarella cheese, told House lawmakers this month that nearly all of the company’s 2021 ocean shipments had been canceled and rebooked for a later date. More than 100 of the company’s bookings this year had been canceled and rebooked 17 times, Mr. Durkin said, equating to a five-month delay in delivering their cheese.
In the interim, Leprino Foods has had to pay to hold its cheese in refrigerated containers in carrier yards, racking up an additional $25 million in fees this year.
The bill also includes funding to improve railways, roads and waterways, as well as a provision to fund pop-up container yards outside the Port of Savannah, in Georgia, to ease congestion. It will also lower the minimum age of truckers who can cross state lines to 18, in a bid to attract more workers to a profession that has become a key bottleneck in supply chains.
In September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture also announced it would dispense $500 million to help farmers deal with transportation challenges and rising materials costs.
John D. Porcari, the Biden administration’s port envoy, said farm exports are a “primary focus” for the administration, and that the White House was trying to encourage private sector companies, including ocean carriers, to get the supply chain moving.
The White House held a round table with agricultural exporters on Friday, and Mr. Porcari plans to visit the Port of Oakland, in California, one of the biggest export points for agriculture, this week.
“We know that some sectors have had more trouble than others, and we’re working to eliminate those bottlenecks,” Mr. Porcari said in an interview.
While agricultural exporters have welcomed long-term infrastructure investments, they remain concerned about more immediate losses.
Mr. Anderson — whose company is responsible for nearly 10 percent of America’s milk supply and a fifth of American butter production — said he had been frustrated that much of the public dialogue from the government and in the media had focused more on consumer imports.
“Are we going to get toys for Christmas? Are we going to get chips for automobiles? We think those are real concerns and they need to be talked about,” he said. “What’s not being talked about is the long-term damage being done to exporters in the world market and how that’s going to be devastating to our family farms.”
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Opinion: Top challenges facing U.S. farmers in the global trade market11/15/21 1:22 PM By John Penson Jr.
The future of global trade for American agriculture continues to paint a murky picture. As of now, the trade outlook for U.S. ag exports in 2022 remains strong. Higher grain prices have yet to affect demand, and current yields are suggesting that the stock-to-use ratios for corn, soybeans, and wheat will likely keep prices strong. While there’s been a considerable amount of attention on record-breaking ag export trade forecasts, less focus has been placed on the import side of things which could be cause for concern as farmers make production decisions heading into spring.
The U.S. relies significantly on imports of nitrogen and potash fertilizers. The rising price of natural gas, a key ingredient in ammonia used to manufacture nitrogen fertilizers, is a major factor driving up nitrogen fertilizer prices. Fertilizer producers in Europe have cut back on ammonia production in light of the dramatic natural gas prices there. China, one of the world’s largest exporters of urea, sulphate, and phosphate, is imposing restrictions on their export. China and Europe represent the two largest sources of imported fertilizer and agricultural chemicals. These developments, coupled with strong demand, are causing triple-digit growth in prices for nitrogen, ammonia, and phosphate in the U.S. The prices of glyphosate and glufosinate, herbicide compounds for weed control, are up as much as 300% in certain locations.
These shortages and price spikes are not solely a U.S. problem. Brazil is also facing escalating fertilizer prices during planting season which will likely lead to reduced corn production. Canadian authorities are urging their growers to cut back on usage. European farmers might find it more difficult to source fertilizer this spring.
Other factors affecting production costs for farmers include:
Although higher costs for fertilizer and other inputs will place pressure on farm profitability in 2022, U.S. crop enterprises will likely remain profitable assuming normal yields due to a strong market. The risk is that farmers pay the high costs for fertilizer and chemicals only to see adverse shifts in the global market caused by a relatively stronger dollar or barriers to trade (particularly with China) squeeze expected profit margins. Given current conditions and high commodity prices, direct government payments are likely to be dramatically lower and crop revenue insurance does not address rising operating expenses.
- Parts shortages and repair costs for machinery and equipment, likely exacerbated by the worker strike at John Deere.
- With the U.S. expected to be more reliant on crude oil imports in 2022, the rise in crude oil prices to the $85 per barrel range is also a cause for concern.
- Prices for propane, which is used to heat many rural homes, have nearly doubled since last year.
- Finally, farmland rents are expected to be up 10-20 percent in 2022 in many parts of the country.
A strong demand coupled with tight supply for agricultural commodities is translating into higher food prices for consumers. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), global food prices have reached a 10-year high. High wheat and other grain prices, along with high shipping costs and delays, are particularly damaging for poorer countries.
One thing is certain—affordability and availability of inputs are both critical to ensuring our ability to compete in the global market and protecting our domestic food system. While global agriculture has its benefits, a domestic food system should be self-sustaining as well to hedge against the risk of supply bottlenecks and shortages, as seen these last couple of years.
Dr. John Penson Jr. Is the Chief Economist at AgAmerica Lending, a nationwide agricultural land lender. He has also held the title of Regents Professor and Stiles Professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University.
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If you want to flesh out the picture being painted a little more, here's an article about the USDA projections for crops and crop prices for the next year. Brazil churned out record amounts of soybean and corn this year, but a shortage of L-lysine threatens to undo those gains. Nursing sows and newly weaned piglets require L-lysine to grow; it is an amino acid, like folate, which pregnant humans and infants require. If it cannot be added to feed as a supplement, then the only cure is to push more biomatter, and specifically soybean meal, because it's naturally high in L-lysine.
It also appears that China is intentionally trying to destroy the agriculture of countries where the bulk of food is grown. From 2009-2016 the Chinese acquired record amounts of American farmland. They are currently running an embargo on beef from Brazil, Ireland, and the UK for bogus sounding reasons. The Brazilian farmers are facing down culling their herds because the local market is glutted with beef and they can't import the beef into the US due to FDA standards.
The scenario plays out something like this:
They stop accepting beef imports from Brazil. Brazil can't move the meat locally due to market glut. Brazil can't import the meat into the US because of FDA standards. At the same time China has cut off UK and Ireland from importing beef to them, which means the Brazilian beef can't go into these markets either (because they are glutted with local supply). If the Brazilians unload their beef locally they'll get almost nothing for it because South Americans are collectively fairly poor. They also can't feed the cattle indefinitely, so this could push them to cull their herds and declare bankruptcy. Once bankrupt the Chinese can buy their land for pennies. If the Brazilians starve then the Chinese air-drop them some rice and now have acres of fertile farmland and grateful serfs to farm it for them (and they get double-paid for this by leasing the farmland to the serfs).
Here is an article about the fertilizer shortage. Meanwhile in India farmers have started stealing DAP (a form of fertilizer) and the government is trying to crack down on hoarders. And in case you were wondering, yes, fertilizer really IS that important to producing the global yields we are accustomed to.
There are also currently farmer protests in at least two countries. India has been doing exactly the kind of farming practices that lead to the Dustbowl in Oklahoma. They've been clearcutting their trees and turning everything into farmland, then planting corn over and over again for the last 60 years because it's subsidized by the government. The corn is usually left to rot in piles on the ground. Iran is protesting because they have no water and can't grow anything.
As the icing on the cake here is a series of videos of current year famines:
(I am shuffling the videos slightly. This will be fixed tomorrow.)
In closing: Nobody is saying the world or civilization is going to end. The premise is that there's a lot of things currently going bad and more that could go bad. This is a thread for following economic collapses and famines.