Achieving Self-Funding Local Sovereignty as Global Food Systems Collapse

The solution to the current food crisis is small and local, including growing food locally. But how to fund local food co-ops without pricey loans from big banks?

“Deglobalizing” and “dedollarizing” have been much in the news. Reducing dependence on the global supply chain and the U.S. dollar are trends that are happening not just internationally but locally. In the United States, we have seen movements both for local food independence and to divest from Wall Street banks. The burgeoning cryptocurrency movement is another push to “dedollarize” and escape the international bankers’ control grid. 

This article is a sequel to one discussing home gardens and community food co-ops as local counter-measures to an impending food crisis. The question to be addressed here is how to fund them. What sort of local currency could fund food co-ops independently of the credit dollars we get from banks?

But first, some framing of the problem. It’s not just about temporary food shortages. It’s about sovereignty from the sort of global control foreshadowed in Henry Kissinger’s notorious statement, “Control food and you control the people.” 

The War on Food

Alarmed commentators are observing that our food systems seem to be under attack. In a June 14 article, ZeroHedge republished a list of 99 accidental fires hampering America’s food supply chain since January 2021. Meanwhile, many farmers are unable to get the supplies they need to produce food, from fertilizers to herbicides to tractor parts; and small trucking companies that deliver food to grocery stores are being driven into insolvency by unprecedented diesel gas prices. There has also been a surge of cyberattacks on agricultural companies during critical planting and harvest seasons. And an estimated 10,000 head of cattle died mysteriously in Kansas feedlots. The deaths were officially attributed to a heat wave but that explanation is disputed by farmers.  

In July 2020, the Rockefeller Foundation published a white paper called “Reset the Table: Meeting the Moment to Transform the U.S. Food System.” It summarized discussions of over 100 leaders and experts brought together to design a “reset” of the food system. A skeptical Irish blogger notes:

The first question anybody should be asking is “How would the Rockefeller Foundation know about upcoming food shortages” in 2020. Naturally it was just a calculated guess on their part. Isn’t it also interesting that the title was “Reset the Table.”

Surely just another coincidence considering “The Great Reset” was announced on 3rd June 2020. Amazing how they can get all their ducks in a row lined up so quickly considering Covid had only officially been on the block for a few months.

The hunger problem in July 2020 stemmed from unemployment and Covid-19 lockdowns, which had just begun nationally at the end of March. A January 2022 meta-analysis from Johns Hopkins University concluded that “lockdowns have had little to no public health effects, [but] they have imposed enormous economic and social costs where they have been adopted. In consequence, lockdown policies are ill-founded and should be rejected as a pandemic policy instrument.”

To the Rockefeller Foundation, however, the Covid crisis and policy response were an “opportunity” to make transformative changes in our food system, including “modernizing data and technology platforms.” The July 2020 white paper proclaimed:  

Food is medicine … One of Covid-19’s legacies should be that it was the moment Americans realized the need to treat nutritious food as a part of health care …. By integrating healthy food into the health care system, doctors could prescribe produce as easily as pharmaceuticals and reduce utilization of expensive health services that are often required because of nutrition insecurity. 

“Doctors could prescribe produce as easily as pharmaceuticals ….” Food can be prescribed, controlled and rationed. The Irish blogger wrote, “The plan is to centralize and control the food supply into one body, one single executive office.” In a May 2022 podcast, Christian Westbrook, the “Ice Age Farmer,” mused:

Where vaccine passports failed, food passports will now be eagerly accepted by hungry people who can’t afford rapidly inflating food prices. This is the realization of a longstanding agenda by the Rockefeller/UN/WEF crowd to, as Kissinger put it, “control food, and control people.”  

That sort of control grid is what concerns preppers” and “survivalists” – people preparing for large-scale societal collapse. But we don’t need to go down that controversial rabbit hole for confirmation that a major food crisis is on the horizon. President Biden has said as much, and the head of the UN World Food Program has warned that we are heading into the worst humanitarian crisis since World War II. 

The crisis is systemic, predating Covid. As Australian author Dr. Liz Elliott colorfully illustrates the problem in an as-yet-unpublished preface to her book “A New Way Now: Solutions to Financial and Climate Collapse”:

Corporations have become bigger than ancient countries, steamrolling over Life like invading armies.… Long supply chains are making food, machines and energy insecure. So much transport, needing so much oil, just to bring carrots and soap from cheap labour places. Third World people are realizing the money driven system is the extension of Colonialism; exploitation of their work and land by those who control money and weapons.…

These few then drive public policy towards more centralization, more scientific determinism, more technocratic “solutions,” more standardization, more war, more ideology.…

If large corporations and banks are the problem, then the solution is small and local.… The path to decentralization is already being forged in a million initiatives everywhere.

The solution is small and local, including growing food locally. But how to fund local food co-ops without pricey loans from big banks? 

Food-backed Local Credit as Money

In a 2014 article titled “The Truth Is Out: Money Is Just an IOU, and the Banks Are Rolling in It,” the late David Graeber underscored the fact that money is basically just credit. What triggered his article was the Bank of England’s acknowledgment in its first  quarterly report that year that virtually all of the money we use in trade is simply created on the books of banks when they make loans. It is credit advanced by the bank against the borrower’s promise to repay it, preferably backed by some form of collateral. Local currencies and cryptocurrencies can work in the same way.

To be useful today as “money,” a currency is said to need these four main attributes. It should serve as:

  • A medium of exchange
  • A standard of deferred payment
  • A store of wealth
  • A measure of value or unit of account

A medium of exchange is something that people actually use and will accept in trade. Today, that would largely rule out both gold and blockchain cryptocurrencies on the model of Bitcoin (BTC). You can’t buy groceries with gold (the grocer wouldn’t know how to make change), and Bitcoin is little used in trade. It is too volatile to be a reliable measure of value and is held chiefly as a speculative asset. As one commentator puts it, “Can you imagine owning a small business and having to pay your employees’ salaries denominated in Bitcoin. The actual value paid could vary by 50% or more from paycheck to paycheck. No company would commit to this as the risk would be way too high.” 

To retain its value, a currency should ideally be backed by some asset that has a stable value itself. Gold and silver have been used historically, but the gold-backed money system failed because the banks did not have enough of that precious metal to satisfy the liquidity needs of the economy. The result was periodic bank runs and banking crises. 

What sort of asset would hold its value and be widely available as collateral in a local community trading system today?  With the threat of impending food shortages, food could satisfy that requirement. Garden co-ops can issue their own cryptocurrencies or community currencies, backed by the food they will produce. Sellers are often reluctant to accept unbacked community currencies in payment, because other sellers may not accept them in trade; but food-backed currencies hold their value. They are promises to pay in food, or advances against future productivity. They are paper or digital stores of food that can be reclaimed in the future, cashed in for fresh produce long after storage food in the refrigerator would have gone bad.

Grain-Backed Crypto Tokens

Grain-backed cryptocurrencies are already happening at the corporate level. In March 2022, banking giant Santander signed an agreement with an Argentinian company named Agrotoken, which has created a cryptocurrency to tokenize grain. Santander agreed to accept Agrotoken’s soy-, corn-and wheat-backed coins as loan collateral. Each token is backed by one ton of grain held in a storage facility. Farmers generate tokens by selling their crops to participating grain elevators, which validate the existence of the commodity. The loans will be made on a blockchain, with the tokens locked into smart contracts. Agrotokens were listed on an Argentinian commodities derivatives exchange, a key to getting the lending project started.

Santander called the project the first to use cryptocurrency tokens backed by agricultural commodities as lending collateral. It said in a blog post that the project uses an innovative digital solution that “will allow farmers and the agro ecosystem to have easy and fluid access to a new financing system, expanding credit capacity by using tokenized grains.”

Agrotoken was recently the subject of a case study by Accenture, which said it was bringing “new financial options to the multi-trillion-dollar agribusiness sector by letting farmers convert tons of soybean crops into a commodity-backed stablecoin that could be spent with merchants and investors.” Longer term, the company plans to move beyond grains into other agricultural commodities, offering Tokenization-as-a-Service (TaaS). The goal, Accenture said, is to develop “a token-collateralized loan system that would allow farmers easy, fluid access to a new system of credit at competitive rates.”

Holochain

Agrotokens are issued on a blockchain, the sort of distributed ledger technology involved in Bitcoin, Ethereum and Hashgraph. But an agricultural supply chain startup called Producers Token has rejected that technology in favor of a more localized peer-to-peer technology called Holochain. Holochain developer Arthur Brock says it is rooted in biomimicry (“how nature functions and scales”). Users are not buying coins created by wealthy “miners” in China but are creating their own money, simply by extending credit to other users. 

According to Colin Stewart, Director of Agricultural Technology for Producers Token: 

[Holochain’s] method of cryptographic accounting allows for the creation of asset-backed cryptocurrencies, and this is really interesting because what we’re designing and implementing in our platform is a method for agricultural producers to mint their own cryptocurrencies that are actually backed by their goods. So you can think of the cryptocurrency as a forward contract.

A typical “forward contract” might be an agreement between a wheat farmer and a grain processor for the sale of the farmer’s crop at a certain price on a certain date. The currency issued by the farmer would act as a receipt for future delivery of the wheat. A food-backed cryptocurrency tied to an asset with real value is considered to be more stable than blockchain-based tokens, which again are notoriously volatile. 

For Stewart, another problem with blockchain technology involves its “consensus” feature. Most versions require the entire network to agree about the order of events. But Stewart asked, “If I’m an apple grower in Washington State… why should I have to know that the avocado grower in Michoacán sold his avocados?” He explained that Holochain, like blockchain, provides for transparency, accountability, and immutability, but without the inefficiencies of using one monolithic ledger that contains the history of all transactions in the network. Instead, Holochain is “agent-centric,” with users having their own individual hash-chains of data. For more on Holochain, see here

Homegrown Food-backed Currencies

If all that sounds too high-tech for your friendly neighborhood food co-op, there are more modest local alternatives. Community currency expert Thomas Greco, author of “The End of Money,” maintains that a produce-backed currency could be issued without even creating a cryptocurrency. A group of local farmers could be organized to jointly issue farm currency as a paper or digital community currency, which could be spent into circulation to buy what the farmers needed to produce their crops. The currency would circulate in the local community and would be accepted back by the farmers in payment for the products they sell. 

“So the currency has a beginning and an end, it’s created and it’s extinguished,” says Greco. “It’s created by the act of spending and it’s extinguished in the act of redemption, not in some other currency, but in goods and services that have been promised.” 

Community currencies operate on the same sort of credit clearing system that banks use to create the “bank money” composing the majority of our money supply today, but they do it without manipulation by profiteering middlemen. Money is created as a debit in an account and is extinguished when the debt is repaid. No interest is charged, so there is no built-in imperative for growth. Community currencies also allow communities to make decisions about where capital should flow rather than giving decision-making power solely to banks, and they foster human relationships, building community and encouraging people to interact with one another.

Spreading Financial Sovereignty: From Communities to Cities to Countries

Local currencies don’t need to be printed on paper or issued as cryptocurrencies. “Mutual credit clearing systems” can keep track of credits and debits on a simple ledger. Participants of mutual credit clearing systems around the world can trade with each other, and this is already being done.

Cities and towns can also issue their own community currencies; and many haveparticularly in times of depression. A major hurdle is getting sellers to accept the local currency, but this could be fixed by backing it with some public service. Tom Greco suggests “Solar Dollars” – credit instruments of a local utility company, spent into circulation by the company as credit against future electricity services. Other services the city could provide include fiber-optic broadband, circumventing the perceived hazards of 5G; and ethanol fuel generated by a community-owned still, processing not corn and other foodstuffs but weeds and other organic waste. The currency could be issued by the city through a publicly-owned bank. 

Combining these possibilities, a global monetary system might be devised that is independent of the control grid manipulated by international financial megaliths. But that is a big subject, which will have to be addressed in another article. 

_______________________

This article was first posted on ScheerPost. Ellen Brown is an attorney, chair of the Public Banking Institute, and author of thirteen books including Web of DebtThe Public Bank Solution, and Banking on the People: Democratizing Money in the Digital Age. She also co-hosts a radio program on PRN.FM called “It’s Our Money.” Her 300+ blog articles are posted at EllenBrown.com

14 Responses

  1. Ellen Brown, With this comment, I hope to help those considering ‘co-operatives’, to learn from history & understand several tragic self-defeating limitations of the present antithetical form of ‘One-member/one-vote co-op’ established around the time of the Rochdale co-op in England.
    Herein are some leads to the Revelations of my 58 years of solidarity contributions among 1st Nation, ‘indigenous’ (Latin ‘self-generating’) & other ‘community’ (L ‘com’ = ‘together’ + ‘munus’ = ‘gift-or-service’) ‘economy’ (Greek ‘oikos’ = ‘home’ + ‘namein’ = ‘care-&-nurture’) as well as all humanity’s worldwide true origins & meaning of ‘money’ (Gk ‘mnemosis’ = ‘memory’) in indigenous systems. For 7000 years of oligarch ‘exogenous’ (L ‘other-generated’) colonial rule, half-baked right ‘capital’ (L ‘cap’ = ‘head’ = ‘collective-intelligence’) & left ‘co-operative’) ‘solutions’ as separated fragments have led to war & disaster.

    During 1969-80, I helped establish the British Columbia ‘Fed-up’ Natural Foods (Consumer) Co-operative network, particularly in BC’s West Kootenay region. 1981-90, I helped operate the Quebec ‘LaBalance’ LB Co-op Network being on the LB Board of Directors & working as staff in the Montreal warehouse. ‘Co-operatives’ from its earliest etymological reference about 500 years ago is based in ‘co’ meaning ‘together’ + ‘operatives’ meaning ‘stakeholders’. Hence ‘co-ops’ referred to the historic remains of the Celtic & Slavic ‘indigenous’ multistakeholder ‘participatory’ (L ‘part’ = ‘share’) Production-Society-Guilds systems of progressive share ownership, over the course of one’s working career, within each specialty.
    In BC as Fedup provincial organizers, we were having trouble maintaining the involvement of co-op organizers & stakeholders of all kinds, because of the lack of recognition for individual & community contributions.
    At the same time I was living this decade among the West Kootenay Anabaptist ‘peace’ Russian-Doukhobor (45,000 people), German-Mennonite (2000) & English-Quaker (1000) communities, which were part of settler invasion from about 1899. All these communities had built by calculations of the time over one billion dollars of domestic, industrial & commercial infrastructure. However elders informed me & others that; the one-member/one-vote decision-making model of co-ops had not enabled these economies to evolve. Most of the wonderful Anabaptist biosphere-based collective businesses & industries were abandoned. So the 1970s decade I was there, 98% of people were working for their family livelihoods in the extractive, exploitive mining, forestry & hydro-electric industries. (more on this follows)
    One-member/one-vote does not recognize individuals (nor groups) for:
    1) years & even decades of contribution, experience, expertise & decision-making acumen,
    2) the difference in contributions between a) founder, b) worker, c) manager, d) supplier, e) townspeople, f) consumer stakeholders. Hence without recognition for very significant livelihood contributions & investments of knowledge, expertise, labour, goods, services, resources, patronage etc.
    Hence stakeholders with families to take care of were not investing nor making appropriate decisions. An indigenous ‘economy’ Fed-up study-group was formed in about 1972, where researchers helped guide us through study of the ancient time-based equivalency accounting ‘String-shell’ Value system (eg. Wampum on Turtle-island/North-America, Quipu in S. America & Cowrie-shell in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia & all world islands). We also studied the ancient indigenous worldwide Production-Society-Guilds of the whole world. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/relational-economy
    Those of us young-un Fedup Organizers were forming relationships & supporting families & planning to support them. We shared this indigenous-economy information with our respective regional organizing committees & Co-op or Buying-group Boards-of-Directors, but didn’t get any kind of significant response. Just as the Anabaptist groups & many other ‘co-ops’ worldwide had experienced, we could not get majority agreement in the idealist reactionary single-stakeholder Consumer Directors, nor any dialogue with BC’s corporations ministry. By 1978 there were over 500,000 Natural-Food co-op members in North-America with the same dilemma for not being able to integrate all the wonderful multi-stakeholder interdisciplinary people, productivity, products & infrastructure, which had been developed. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/structure/7-participatory-companies
    By 1975, in order to pay for a 10 acre once Mennonite orchard in Deer-Park, on the Lower-Arrow-Lake, I took a position as a Chemical Technician at the local Celgar (Canadian-Cellulose) Pulp-mill. Working across the laboratories of the mill & seeing the pollution problems in each department, I formed a Pollution-Control-Committee, which management & union both contributed to. My father who also worked as a Foreman (machining & mechanics) in a large multistakeholder participatory investment & Board-represented industry in Montreal, had oriented me to the invested-interest & collective-intelligence benefits. I wrote articles promoting multistakeholder participatory investment & decision-making, for the purposes of Pollution-Control, in the local Celgar mill & BC Can.cel. newspapers. Both the union & management who were mostly Doukhobor & Mennonite, welcomed & implemented elements of the participatory economy model for Celgar, which eventually spread across the province. Participatory accounting becomes the company basis for recording & registering stakeholder contributions, investment & ownership. In Canada at the time Employee-Stock-Ownership-Savings-Plans were integrated with Registered-Retirement, Home-Ownership, Educational & other tax provisions of government Financial-Ministry Savings-Plans. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/relational-economy/participatory-accounting
    Readers will greatly benefit from understanding how all humanity’s indigenous ancestors organized primarily within the ~100 (50-150) person Multihome-Dwelling-Complex (eg. Longhouse-apartment, Pueblo-townhouse & Kanata-village) domestic-economy with industry & commerce as subsets. This provision, given the tendency of some women to be primary care-givers, gave accounting priority, as well as integrated decision-making to these domestic labours in Multihome & community councils, which formed the ‘fractal’ (‘fraction, multiplier, building-block, where-the-part-contains-the-whole’) foundation for village, city, region, nation, confederate & continental councils. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/relational-economy/extending-our-welcome-participatory-multi-home-cohousing
    Wishing you all well in your humane & community livelihood efforts. There is much to be known & discussed among ourselves in order to re-establish a healthy human & biosphere centred livelihood. douglasjack@indigenecommunity.info & http://www.indigenecommunity.info

  2. You write well but entirely too much. I don’t know your target audience but, if it is those you are attempting to educate, you are smothering them. It seems that most writers offer more than we can digest these days. It’s a shame because you have so much to offer.

    • Bill, I agree. I quit reading after the second paragraph. If the author has a captured audience due to a fan- based following, I am sure it would be received well. I don’t know the author so unless I am extensively interested in the history of co-ops or have time on my hands, etc., I won’t read it.

  3. Ellen, The issue I would think some would have with a agro-coin, or currency that is backed by a crop grown in a local community is putting all of your eggs in one basket regarding wheat or soybeans, or any singular crop in a community. The fickleness of the weather to be sure is another, particularly with climate change on the rise.

    In a community – more likely a region or section of a large state such as California, Texas, Florida, etc., I could foresee, however, numerous opportunities with multiple crops that are asset based and used a currency, coin, etc. Again, the bugaboo would be weather but that has always been the farmer’s lot and their inherent risk besides markets that are outside of their control and other sundry happenstances beyond or within their control

  4. Found link to your fine article on website moonofalabama.com, where I just wrote as follows:

    [in reply to psychohistorian | Jul 10 2022 16:03 utc | 11]
    re {Ellen Brown] “She thinks food has both stable value and can be widely available as collateral in a local community trading system today and I think we will see that globally as well.”

    I now demonstrate: “Money only has value if FOOD [food + air + water] is available for consumption.” I.e., any form of money pre-supposes that FOOD is available in time to prevent death by starvation. No FOOD available =
    “money” has no value.

    The corollary is that FOOD, itself, was and still is the only real form of money. All other forms are only derivative substitutes, based on availability of FOOD.

    This view aligns completely with M. Hudson’s history of money in “And Forgive Them Their Debts”. FOOD was the original “money” and codified so that other forms of “money” were proportionally valued with a system of weights and measures to a specified amount of FOOD, usually grain. This enabled a workable way for a King [or any ruling authority] to levy taxes paid not only in grain [“on the threshing floor”] but also any substitute [!] on the official list.

    FOOD is the essential item, all other forms of money are substitutes for and derivative of FOOD…and you cannot eat/breath/drink derivatives…such as gold/helium/oil.

    So yes, Ellen Brown, “food has both stable value and can be widely available…”, as demonstrated by warehouses of FOOD located in proximity to all populations.

    Posted by: chu teh | Jul 10 2022 22:29 utc | 60

  5. re chu teh , above …that should be moonofalabama.org

  6. […] Achieving Self-Funding Local Sovereignty as Global Food Systems Collapse, by Ellen Brown […]

  7. I admire your work, Ellen. My take is, people need to return to a non-free, local barter-food trading system. The banks are robbing us blind. Investors can buy foods, dried goods, canned, etc. Local stores will thrive. Send the central bankers are clear message. Their debt money is no longer accepted. And stop repairing their plumbing!

  8. Reblogged this on Calculus of Decay and commented:
    Let’s spread this far and wide.. Ellen Brown, thank you for expressing your ideas and sharing them

  9. Excellent stuff

  10. Yes, as Ellen Brown proposes, we all need to ante-up investing in FOOD SYSTEM SHARES or food security in food, materials, energy & water-cycle production. It is crucial to distinguish between:
    1) all humanity’s worldwide ancient ‘indigenous’ (Latin ‘self-generating’) 3-D abundant POLYCULTURE ORCHARDS &
    2) 2-D scarcity producing ‘AGRICULTURE’ (L ‘ager’ = ‘field’) for the past 7000 years of oligarch controlled violent colonial empires.
    A number of researchers & authors such as Henry-F Dobyns in Their Number Become Thinned, 1491 by Charles C. Mann & my following article on Orchard-food-production-Efficiencies show the easy to understand calculations about how all humanity’s ancient cultivated 3-dimensional Polyculture Orchards are 100 times or 10,000% more productive for food, materials, energy & water-cycle than 2-D ‘agriculture’. Dobyns lay the foundation for understanding the Americas as being the most densely populated continents in the world with some 110 million people & with the largest cities worldwide.
    Disclosure: I speak from 58 years in indigenous solidarity & over 5 decades of experience in both agriculture & polyculture.
    These calculations are the missing part of Genesis, the 1st book of the Torah, which help us understand Babylon Eden’s plenty, but missing the story of oligarchy’s perversion of the worldwide string-shell into a system of centralized control into today’s false ‘money’ (Greek ‘mnemosis’ = ‘memory’) as a population amnesic control system. https://sites.google.com/site/indigenecommunity/design/1-indigenous-welcome-orchard-food-production-efficiencies

  11. […] Achieving Self-Funding Local Sovereignty as Global Food Systems Collapse, by Ellen Brown […]

  12. […] Na příklad, v Americe, ve státě Kansas, zrovna nedávno záhadně zahynulo 10 000 kusů dobytka. Někteří to připisovali příliš velkému horku, ale velké horko je v těch místech běžné, takže to prakticky nepřipadá v úvahu. Sedláci sami podezřívají, že dobytek byl otráven něčím, co bylo přidáno do jejich komerčně kupované stravy. Ale jiní podezřívají otravu radiací z 5G antén, s čímž už jsou zkušenosti z minulosti. […]

  13. […] Achieving Self-Funding Local Sovereignty as Global Food Systems Collapse […]

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