California drought

We’ve been really blessed to have an abundance of rain this spring – I haven’t even had to water my garden or my flowers because Mother Nature has taken care of that.  And the corn is double the size of the adage “knee=high” by the Fourth of July. 

But California hasn’t been so fortunate. The entire nation will likely feel the brunt of the stingy rain on the West Coast later this year as we see a rise in food prices. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently predicted that fruit and vegetable prices will rise by 5 percent to 6 percent this year due largely to lower production in California’s Central Valley. Not only has California  suffered one of its driest years on records, extreme environmental policies also are responsible for the forecasted spike, according to the Wall Street Journal. 

California produces more than half of the country’s fruits and vegetables, including the bulk of lettuce, berries and tomatoes. Federal water regulators this year slashed farmers’ water allocations to zero due to a prolonged bout of dry weather. As a result, farmers had to triage their crops and pump groundwater. Many reserved their limited groundwater supply for high-value nuts and fruit trees, scaling back production of row crops like tomatoes and beans.

The effects of this insane water rationing are just beginning to show up in food prices, according to the USDA, and “the ongoing drought in California could potentially have large and lasting effects on fruit, vegetable, dairy, and egg prices,” according to the USDA.

The California Farm Bureau has issued a conservative estimate that the average American family will spend about $500 more on food this year as a result of the drought and government imposed rations.

One thing I’ve loved about covering agriculture is that it’s such a world-influenced industry. Sanctions in Russia affect Illinois farmers; so do water restrictions in California. It’s a global business. 

Controlling water restrictions in California – or Mother Nature’s rain – is out of our control, but there are a few things we can do. Buy local when possible – support your Farmers’ markets and even try planting your own garden. Most of all, next time it rains, be thankful. Rain can be a wonderful thing.

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About the author

Charlyn Fargo spent 27 years at the State Journal-Register covering agriculture, business and food. She currently is the Bureau Chief of County Fairs & Horse Racing with the Illinois Department of Agriculture. She is also a Registered Dietitian and writes a weekly syndicated nutrition column for Creator’s News Service (www.creators.com) and is co-owner of Simply Fair, a fair trade boutique at 2357 W. Monroe in Springfield. She has bachelor’s degrees in agricultural communications and food from the University of Illinois, Champaign and a master’s degree in nutrition from Eastern Illinois University. She and her husband, Brad Ware, have a daughter, Kate, and son, Jayden. When she’s not working or writing, she enjoys baking cookies for Simply From Scratch, a company she formed to support faith-based ministries.

View all articles by Charlyn Fargo

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