Bruce Webster's Response To The Initial Report Of Secretary Glickman's Testimony On The Food Supply : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread


I posted this a while ago. Be aware that our site is down from 5pm to 10pm Eastern for upgrading, yak yak yak. Anywhere, here 'tis in full:


Bruce Webster's Response To The Initial Report Of Secretary Glickman's Testimony On The Food Supply

(Bruce Webster-Washington DC Year 2000 Group)

After the first AP wire story came out this morning about Agriculture Secretary Glickman's testimony on Y2K and the food supply, Bruce Webster, co-founder of the Washington DC Year 2000 Group sent out this e-mail. He gave me permission to reproduce it here.

Drew Parkhill

[[the Webster letter begins here]]

An AP wire item this morning led with the following paragraph:

"Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman says it is unlikely the Year 2000 computer problem will cause widespread food shortages, partly because few U.S. farmers use high-tech systems that might be susceptible."

I would like to see Sec'y Glickman's entire testimony, but the nature of the article makes it appear that this is his major focus. If so, then I am left with some concern about his grasp of the problem for at least three reasons. First, the statistics cited don't distinguish between the total # of farmers and which farms (e.g., agribusiness) produce the majority of food (and which are more likely to be automated). Second, the use of high-tech systems by US farmers isn't a big concern anyway, since many (if not most) will have a few months to get things fixed before spring plantings occur. Third, the news item (which may unfairly condense Sec'y Glickman's testimony) does little to address the following areas of concern (cited in my book, pp. 216-217):

7 Production and delivery of agricultural chemicals, including fertilizers and pesticides

7 Production and delivery of hybrid seeds

7 Production, delivery, and operation of farm equipment, including spare parts, fuel, and lubricants

7 Computer and embedded systems control of irrigation systems and storage facilities

7 Interruption of power, water, natural gas, phone, or other services to farms, food processing companies, warehousing firms, and grocery stores

7 Difficulty of farmers getting loans due to banks' own Y2K problems as well a general recession

7 Interruptions and delays in transportation systems, especially trains

7 The whole spectrum of Y2K problems within food processing firms, especially embedded systems within the food processing equipment

7 Y2K problems in transportation, communication, and storage in the food warehousing and grocery store network

This list alone should be enough to underscore that the possibility of Y2K-induced shortages and/or price hikes at the local supermarket isn't far-fetched. We see such shortages and price jumps now when bad weather or natural disasters impacts crops, when food producers renegotiate prices, or when labor disputes disrupt the normal grocery supply chain. There's no reason why Y2K's impact should be any different.

Sec'y Glickman does appear to concede that Y2K problems outside the US (e.g., South America) could impact the availablity of fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter months. What he doesn't appear to address is the impact of those same problems--in all the forms listed above--on global food production and what the rest of the world will need to eat in 2000, and how that will impact the US as well.

My personal opinion is that food shortages within the US will not be serious and will probably be somewhat random. My concern with Sec'y Glickman's testimony is that he apparently focuses on a relatively minor and irrelevant aspect (how many farmers use computer systems) and does not seriously address the broad spectrum of more likely and serious Y2K issues with domestic and global food production. This suggests that he either doesn't understand them or is avoiding them.

I also find it interesting to see the quote about "needless and frivolous stockpiling of supplies" in light of recommendations from FEMA and the Red Cross about Y2K emergency preparedness, including food storage. As someone who personally has had to live off of "stockpiled supplies" both due to natural disasters (the Loma Prieta quake in 1989) and extended underemployment while shifting careers (back in 1988-89), I find nothing needless or frivolous about it as a standing approach to personal and family preparedness, much less when facing some of the unaddressed uncertainties about Y2K. It just makes sense. ..bruce..

[Bruce F. Webster is Co-chair of the Washington D.C. Year 2000 Group and has testified three times before Congress on the Y2K issue. His testimony and the list of Y2K food issues above can be found in _The Y2K Survival Guide: Getting To, Getting Through, and Getting Past the Year 2000 Problems_ (Prentice-Hall, 1999, ISBN 0-13-021496-5). Webster is Chief Technical Officer of Object Systems Group and is based out of Dallas, TX.]

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (, February 05, 1999


I would agree with Bruce.

-- Reporter (, February 05, 1999.

Glickmam also stated that the Coast Guard will bar foreign ships from U.S. waters unless they are compliant. HAHAHAHAHA

-- KoFE (Whatafriggincrock@bull.shit), February 05, 1999.

Dan Rather just told the world that Agricultural Secretary Glickman says Y2K will not cause food shortages, no need to stockpile food.

Strikes me that Glickman has missed a golden opportunity for promoting no-panic preparation that few other public officials will ever have. He just needed to appeal to our patriotism to help bail out all those poor farmers who are overloaded with too much grain, after all, can't hurt to have a little more on hand. Why, why is he doing such a disservice to his own constituents?

-- Brooks (, February 05, 1999.

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