THE food problem is distinctly a modern one in the United States. Two generations ago no such problem was clearly recognized. Fish were plentiful; pigeons, deer, wild turkeys, water-fowl, quail and buffalo were abundant; wild berries, fruits and nuts could be obtained easily and in large quantities. Naturally food was cheap and there was enough for all, and of a kind sufficiently varied to suit the taste of any. All this has changed. Game animals have practically disappeared. Wild berries, fruits and nuts are no longer of importance in our dietaries. We have seen our population increase at the rate of over twenty per cent, every ten years until the increase in production of food products no longer keeps pace, but lags far behind, and we realize that there is such a thing as a food problem.
If the present rate of increase continues, the population of the United States will approximate five hundred million at the end of the present century. Is it possible to feed that number of persons on the products of our three million square miles? China and India both support a population as dense; but both of these countries are distinctly agricultural. The mass of people live on the land and are engaged in producing food. In this country the great increase in population is in the cities; while the food-producing class is increasing comparatively slowly. The reports on agricultural products exported from the United States illuminate the food problem in an instructive way. If we compare the exports in 1912 with those for 1900, we find that the amount of cheese shipped abroad declined 85 per cent, in that period, beef products declined 65 per cent., pork products declined 30 per cent., corn declined 80 per cent., wheat declined 57 per cent. What do these figures tell? Simply that we have needed the food at home to supply our increasing millions and hence had less to sell in the markets of the world. Can we continue to feed our people by reducing the exports in food stuffs? Obviously not, and in many instances they have been reduced already near the vanishing point. We have even actually begun to import meat and corn. It is significant also that free government land suitable for agricultural purposes is no longer available; hence we can not look for relief by bringing under the plow large tracts of virgin soil.Is there likely, then, to be a scarcity of food in this country in the near future? No, there is and will be plenty of food, but some changes