We know it sounds like putting a square watermelon in a round hole: but Wal-Mart claims it is the nation's largest buyer of locally grown produce. The scaling of centrally managed industrial agriculture in the USA will be transformed. More changes are coming.
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. plans to buy and sell $400 million worth of produce grown by local farmers within its state stores this year, an effort the company says will only grow.One obvious upshot is diversification of the supply chain. Smaller contracts with more farmers & distributors.
...the company, based in Bentonville, Ark., has focused on buying fruits and vegetables from farms closest to its distribution centers, making shipping easier while cutting down on trucking in produce from outside the area,...There will be unexpected consequences. Let's review a few possibilities.
Restaurants that currently feature locally produced food will have to compete for the staples of their operation, potentially driving up prices in the short term.
Densely populated urban areas, which tend, coincidentally, to be under served by Wal-Mart, will benefit least from the trend.
Long term, more farmers will move into the once popular enterprise of "truck farming, a.k.a. market gardening." (Note: CSA's are a subset of this.)
The nearly abandoned local varieties of fruit and vegetables that are best adapted to local climate will return to popularity. Northern peaches anyone?
The risk of salmonella and other food borne illnesses spreading across state lines and impacting very large populations will be much reduced.
Packing houses will have to establish smaller operating facilities around the country.
The importance of unskilled labor to support the regional markets will touch every state equally.
Summer season (but not winter) consumption of Californias' agriculturally-important water supplies will be reduced, commensurate with relocation of production.