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A new study from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that next year, for the first time in fifty years, the United States could import as much food as it exports.

The New York Times notes this morning that the reason for this sea change is the fact that government and consumers have been on different pages. As the United States concentrated on farm exports, the NYT reports, “American consumers have been buying more imported goods. This year the rise in imports was especially marked for processed foods, essential oils used in food and beverage processing, snack foods, red meat, wine, beer and fresh vegetables.”

Canada is the biggest market for US food exports, buying $9.7 billion. The NYT writes that the next four projected big buyers are Mexico, at $8 billion; Japan, at $7.7 billion; the European Union, at $6.5 billion; and China, at $4.6 billion.
KC's View:
We can remember as a kid learning that America was the “breadbasket of the world,” and that one of the things that made us special was the fact that we could feed not only our own people, but also millions of people around the world less fortunate.

Now, we understand that the world has changed. And we’re far from being expert in the area of import-export policy. But we hope that somehow we haven’t squandered one of our greatest advantages as a nation – the ability to fill people’s bellies, and to teach them to feed themselves.

As a people, we spend an awful lot of time worrying about the obesity issue, but spend precious little time thinking and talking about worldwide famine, which still affects tens of millions of people.

We’ve met a lot of great people in the years we’ve been writing about this business, but among the best folks we’ve encountered are those who, in the latter parts of their careers, decide to devote their energies to helping less fortunate people around the world to figure out how to feed themselves.

We read this story, and we wonder if somehow an opportunity has been missed.