Drought in parts of the US could mean even higher food prices

(CBS) Farmers across the country are grappling with the effects of historic drought conditions, and a trip to the grocery store is likely to become even more expensive.

According to NOAA, nearly 300 million acres of farmland in the United States are currently suffering from drought conditions, and the problem is particularly acute in the West. An American Farm Bureau survey of western states found average crop yields could fall by 38%.

“Weather extremes have become more frequent, more widespread and more costly,” said Charlie Dougherty, economist at Wells Fargo. “If this continues, food prices threaten to remain permanently high.”

This month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that food prices rose 13.5% from August 2021 to August 2022, the largest annual increase in more than four decades.

In Hillsborough, New Jersey, fourth-generation farmer Jim Abma adapts to survive. He needed to install a dual-line drip irrigation system on his 240-acre farm that would allow him to deliver water directly to the roots of his squash, peppers, lettuce and other crops. Without them, he said, he wouldn’t have made it through this growing season.

“From May to Labor Day, we only had 1.7 inches of rain,” Abma said. “This year is more of a drought year and a more stressful drought year than we’ve had in the past. But we will adapt and get over it and see it through.”

Abma said even if conditions improve, it is too late to repair the damage for this year’s fall harvest. High temperatures combined with drought took its toll on the crops, and even with his system, the yield on his farm drops by about a third.

“It boils down to smaller corn on the cob, smaller tomatoes, just the result of a stressed plant,” Abma said.

The drought has presented several challenges to the country’s farmers, including higher fuel prices, labor costs and even more expensive packaging. Persistent problems in the supply chain continue to complicate the supply of farm equipment or the parts needed to service it. Abma said as food prices soar at grocery stores, farmers are feeling even more constrained by their bottom line.

“Even though people pay more for their food, we get less profit from it because of our contributions,” Abma said. “We hit a rock and a bump. But we will be back next year, just like I hope every other grower does the same.”

https://www.wane.com/top-stories/drought-in-parts-of-u-s-could-mean-even-higher-food-prices/ Drought in parts of the US could mean even higher food prices

Tom Vazquez

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