Consumers Could See Prices Rise As Western Droughts Worsen

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When Curtis Thomas got out of his truck and planted his boots on the dried yellow grass in California, he was reminded of how difficult his job in raising cattle is.

Thomas, who has been with the company for over a decade, said he is always forced to adapt to constantly changing weather situations.

“If you don’t have water you have nothing,” Thomas said as he opened a door to let cows roam free on his land. “I think it’s the worst so far, it’s just getting worse and worse.”

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Thomas is one of the many pastoralists facing drought. However, he said, other farmers have the situation much worse.

“I can’t afford to carry water to these animals every day, so I had to make arrangements and change my game plan,” he said.

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Thomas said he was forced to move his cattle because his well had dried up on other land. Although Thomas rented the land he had his cattle on, he said he no longer had the money he spent because the cattle could not survive on it.

Other ranchers, Thomas said, were forced to sell their cows for large losses, creating a beef surplus.

California leads the United States in agricultural production; however, the industry continues to be affected by weather conditions.

Nine western states are facing exceptional drought conditions, according to the agriculture ministry.

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Thomas said drought conditions and forest fires are making things more difficult this year.

“You reach a point where you are flat, you have no more native pasture,” Thomas said.

California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross said it was possible for food prices to rise due to deteriorating conditions. However, as the growing season is far from over, she said it might be too early to say by how much prices might rise and how much supply might be affected.

“I think it’s too early to say this could last. It could be a push and then we go down,” said Ross.

Hundreds of thousands of hectares have also been burnt by forest fires in the West.

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Ross said the current drought conditions are similar to 2015, where the state lost billions of dollars in potential benefits.

“Over a three-year period, more than $ 5 billion in crop losses that were not produced, traded and harvested,” she said.

The US Department of Agriculture has said beef prices could rise an additional 4% by the end of the year, and fresh fruit prices could rise an additional 6%.


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