The good news on the drought just keeps on coming.
I know, I know — we have gotten some rain recently in the region, and drought conditions have significantly improved in Texas. But Kansas is REALLY taking it on the chin, and Oklahoma is still behind overall on moisture (check out the University of Nebraska-Lincoln drought monitor map for more information). It’s easy for drought to drop off everyone’s mind when we get a little moisture. Some of us tend to forget that we are still suffering from overall dry conditions throughout a significant portion of the country. We want to move on to other things. It is, after all, the holiday season. It’s time for good cheer, not gloomy blogs about bad weather conditions.
Well, before we move on to holly, candy canes and visions of sugar plums, I want to remind you that we are still struggling through an overall historically dry period and a rare triple-dip La Nina weather event, and this dry weather is having a measurable impact on our holiday celebrations.
Recent reports noted dry conditions have cost California agriculture over $3 billion in losses, including significant reductions in vegetable crops. This, in turn, has helped lead to a 40% jump in vegetable prices over the course of the late fall. That means that the green bean casserole you are making to take to Grandma’s house and the black-eyed peas you will eat on New Year’s Day will cost you more than they did last year.
And it doesn’t stop there. If you bought a turkey on Thanksgiving, you already know that the cost of that bird was roughly 17% higher than last year, thanks in part to the drought (you can read more about that here). If you are cost-conscious, I might suggest beef for your holiday feast since the prices for most cuts are currently down, thanks largely to increases in the overall beef supply generated by the record sell-off of cattle this year.
What was the primary driver of that sell-off? Dry conditions. Get ready, though, because that sell-off could very well mean higher prices starting next year (good for producers, but bad at the grocery store).
And finally, if you’re not worried about food, check out what you had to pay for that live tree in your living room. According to recent reports, the American Christmas Tree Association says consumers can expect to pay as much as 25% more for a tree this year due largely to the drought. Some tree producers in the Pacific Northwest have seen losses of young seedlings as high as 90%.
Ho ho ho.
I apologize for writing such an “upper” of a column during what is supposed to be a season of joy. Everyone should enjoy their holidays. At the same time, we should remember that the challenges that we faced in 2022 have not all gone away. Keep that in mind as we move toward the New Year.
Also, remember to keep in touch with your local USDA Service Center to see what help is available on either the federal or state level.