The U.S. is now a food importer after being a food exporter for many years. Farmland is now being lost to soil degradation and development. Exploding population growth, from both legal and illegal immigration, is causing some of America’s best farmland to be paved over. In California, approximately 26 acres of farmland were removed from production each day between 2002 and 2004. In just two years, more than 18,800 acres of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley became subdivisions, shopping malls, or other developments, setting a new state record for loss of farmland.
Food availability is part environment and part national security. Being dependent on a volatile and unfriendly global marketplace for food puts us in just as precarious a position as not having our own energy supply.
In the summer of 2008, the United States experienced a salmonella outbreak that sickened more than 1,400 people. Initially the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) blamed tomatoes for being the source of the contamination. Virtually all of the U.S.-grown tomato crop was destroyed. Yet the Mexican tomato crop was deemed safe to continue to import. Several months later, the FDA discovered that jalapeno peppers and serrano chilies were the most likely cause of the outbreak. The FDA later said that the source of the salmonella outbreak was irrigation water in Mexico.