Two concerned citizens are asking the Park County commissioners to create a storage facility for wheat, corn, beans and oats in preparation for a potential countywide food shortage.
During their Jan 3 meeting, the commissioners heard from Larry Dodge and Larry French who asked the county to purchase large amounts of commodities and store them for a potential emergency.
Dodge, a Clark resident and longtime advocate for emergency preparedness, cited a variety of concerns he felt could lead to a food shortage across the county, state and nation in the near future.
For example, many farmers are expected to plant fewer crops this year due to the high price of fuel and fertilizer, Dodge said. Over 48 million chickens and turkeys have been killed over the last year due to the bird flu, and many ranchers in the southern United States have had to decrease the size of their herds due to drought. If trucks ever stop running — due to a fuel shortage or a truckers’ strike — the grocery store shelves will be empty within three days, he said.
“We haven’t felt the effects of any of this yet, but we will this year and in the coming years,” Dodge said. “... So we propose a plan for food storage for Park County.”
French said the group proposed storing 1,050 tons of food, or enough for each Park County resident to receive one pound of the commodities each day for 70 days.
French said he estimated the cost of purchasing the commodities at around $493,000 and the cost of creating the storage facility at around $170,158, bringing the total project cost to $663,158.
French further said he recommended the commodities be repurchased every year, and there would be “minimal” annual utilities and maintenance costs for the facility as well.
Dodge said he recommended forming a nonprofit organization with a board of local residents and county representatives so there could be local control over the potential facility.
“The further out you get away from the people, the less control we have over it,” Dodge said. “I don’t think we want the federal government involved in this conversation.”
When asked by commissioner Lee Livingston whether other counties were preparing for a potential food shortage, Dodge said he was unaware of any other such efforts across the state or country.
“I haven’t heard of any, but then I can see why they (other counties) wouldn’t advertise it either,” Dodge said.
The commissioners were open to Dodge and French’s proposal, but said additional conversations were needed. In particular, they asked Dodge and French to discuss their proposal with Jeff Martin, the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Program Director for Park County.
Commission chair Dossie Overfield said Martin could provide insight into whether other counties have successfully implemented a similar program, and whether there is potential grant funding available for the project.
“We like the idea — it’s just the question of ‘How would it work?’” Overfield said.
The commissioners said they planned to discuss the idea with Martin during a work session scheduled for Jan. 10.