Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Too much rain in South costing farmers billions; consumers could feel effect in higher prices

One year after suffering a drought, the South has now seen too much rain, which could cost farmers billions of dollars in reduced crop yields, and lead to higher prices for consumers. Through June, Georgia's rainfall was 34 percent above normal, South Carolina and North Carolina were about 25 percent above normal, and Alabama’s rainfall was 22 percent high. The rain has hurt the yield or quality of crops such as peaches, tobacco, and watermelon, and there is fear it will hamper pecans and peanuts, Kim Severson reports for The New York Times. (Times photo by Grant Blankenship: A Georgia watermelon farm that typically yields 60,000 pounds of melons per acre had less than 30,000 an acre this year)

 "Day after day, the rains have come to a part of the country that relies on the hot summer sun for everything from backyard tomato sandwiches to billions of dollars in commercial row crops, fruit and peanuts," Severson writes. "Although the total cost to farmers has yet to be tallied, agricultural officials in several states in the Deep South predict severe losses this year that could be in the billions of dollars." 

Peaches in Georgia are too big and misshapen, and aren't sweet enough, tomatoes in Tennessee are splitting, tobacco in North Carolina is drowning, some watermelon farmers have lost half their crops, and wheat is sprouting too soon, Severson writes. "Mold is growing on ears of corn, and in some fields entire stalks have toppled. Late blight, a funguslike pathogen, is creeping into tomato fields early and with unusual vigor." (Read more)

With forecasts calling for more rain, and a drought in the West. "That could mean higher prices at the grocery store for staples such as melons, tomatoes and cucumbers," Janet Shamlian reports for NBC News. Bernard Weinstein, an agricultural economist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, told Shamlian, “I would expect to see average prices for fruits and vegetables maybe 10 percent higher this fall than they were in the spring or where they are right now just because there’s going to be less supply available.”

Bad harvests could affect entire rural communities. Georgia farmer Duke Lane told Shamlian, "We were picking in water for most of the summer. And so that’s a problem for the peaches — not being picked in the proper time. It’s gonna hurt cause you know money that’s made here rolls over to the community about seven times. That money’s going to be missed.” (Read more)

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