Earth ChangesS


US: Food Firms Warn of Sugar Shortage

sugar imports India
© BloombergWorkers unload imported unprocessed sugar in India. Sugar prices hit a 28-year high in New York as low monsoon rainfall in India threatens to limit cane yields and excess precipitation delayed harvesting in Brazil.

Some of America's biggest food companies say the U.S. could "virtually run out of sugar" if the Obama administration doesn't ease import restrictions amid soaring prices for the key commodity.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack, the big brands -- including Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Hershey Co. and Mars Inc. -- bluntly raised the prospect of a severe shortage of sugar used in chocolate bars, breakfast cereal, cookies, chewing gum and thousands of other products.

The companies threatened to jack up consumer prices and lay off workers if the Agriculture Department doesn't allow them to import more tariff-free sugar. Current import quotas limit the amount of tariff-free sugar the food companies can import in a given year, except from Mexico, suppressing supplies from major producers such as Brazil.

While agricultural economists scoff at the notion of an America bereft of sugar, the food companies warn in their letter to Mr. Vilsack that, without freer access to cheaper imported sugar, "consumers will pay higher prices, food manufacturing jobs will be at risk and trading patterns will be distorted."


US: Eastern Wheat Harvest Hurt by Rainfall and Fungi

The frequent downpours of rain from May into late June -- and the cool and overcast conditions that followed -- drenched the region's grain crops, leaving them susceptible to damaging fungi and farmers with diminished profits, agriculture experts say.

The fungi, known as vomitoxins, thrived in the dampness and spread across the region. Grain farmers from Maryland to North Carolina reported crops with too high a fungi count to be sold for flour -- the market in which they could make the most money -- and, in some cases, too high to be used for animal feed, which farmers sell at a heavily discounted rate.

For a smaller number of farmers, the fungi count reached a level at which the only option would be to try to use the grain for seed next season, said Maryland Agriculture Secretary Earl F. "Buddy" Hance.

Maryland farmers noticed a problem with the crops about a month ago, said Sue DuPont, a department spokeswoman. The state chemist's office then began distributing test kits to farmers across Maryland. Increased vomitoxin counts have been found across the state, with the bulk of them reported in Southern Maryland, according to University of Maryland agriculture extension agents.

A multitude of cases has been reported in North Carolina, where farmers were also at risk of losses because of the vomitoxin, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement.

Hance said the vomitoxin was an unexpected problem that he had never experienced as a wheat farmer.


Potential food America?

In a strange type of deja vu reminiscent of the spring of 2008, states ranging from Maryland all the way down to North Carolina are experiencing a damaged wheat harvest according to a Washington Post article from Thursday. Some of the crops were so badly damaged by excessive rain that not only can much of it not be sold for flour, but it can't be used for animal feed, either.

Back in 2008, the Midwest had an overabundance of rain that led to shortages of rice, flour and cooking oil in some states. The shortages then brought about rationing. The rationing of grocery items in America: that all by itself seems surreal. And with the present damage being reported in a new region, it leaves me wondering if we will see shortages and rationing again in the coming months in some states.

To make matters even more interesting, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that various large American food companies are warning that there could be a sugar shortage, "if the Obama administration doesn't ease import restrictions amid soaring prices for the key commodities. " Since many preprocessed food items purchased in the typical grocery store use sugar as an ingredient (sometimes within the top 5 listed on the label) this has the potential to affect more than just your typical bag of sugar or bakery item.

Comment: Many warnings seem to be cropping up about crop damage, potential food shortages and the like. This article, (minus the godly invocations that remove living, thinking human beings with brains from the equation), is one more person noticing the potential for what may be brewing.

Overall the United States harvest for corn, soy beans and wheat still looks favorable even though many crops are behind schedule in maturing due to a cool spring and summer in many major growing regions. However, early frost or any of several other weather factors may still endanger the current forecasts. We can only wait and see.

Evil Rays

US: Wisconsin govenor declares agricultural emergency in 41 counties

corn drought
© Gannett Central WisconsinCentral Wiscconsin farmers say crops are 100 days behind because of drought.

Governor Jim Doyle has declared a state of emergency in 41 counties Wednesday because of drought conditions.

The declaration includes Portage, Wood and Marathon counties, and most of the state north of Adams County.

Portage and Wood counties are about 6 inches below normal for rainfall, said Jack Bourget, manager for Portage and Wood counties' Farm Service Agency office. The area is also about 100 growing days behind normal, mostly because of a lack of heat and humidity.

The latest crop progress report issued by the USDA found that more than half of the state's soil moisture is considered low.

The declaration allows the Department of Natural Resources to expedite farmers' requests for temporary irrigation permits to use stream or lake water to irrigate their crops, said Randy Romanski, deputy secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

Barring an extention by the Legislature, temporary permits will be in effect until Sept. 11.

"It's a proactive way to help those farmers try and get some water on their crops before it's too late," Romanski said.


US: Drought sucking life out of northern Wisconsin farms

Bone-dry fields, failing crops, shrinking herds.

Wisconsin farmers are hurting and have been for the past several years as drought conditions continue to get worse across the region.

Douglas County farmer Mark Liebaert says this is the fifth year of below-normal moisture during the growing season.

"This summer has been the worst of the five. We didn't get any rain in May, we didn't get any rain in the early part of June and the sub-moisture is all gone," Liebaert said. "There is nothing left in the soil."

That has led to significant crop damage and economic losses.

Cell Phone

Despair as drought cripples 'Australia's Mississippi'

algal bloom
© Agence France-PresseAlgae is seen along the Murray River at Albury.

Farmer Mazzareno Bisogni fights back tears as he stands among the remains of trees he planted 35 years ago, victims of a drought hitting "Australia's Mississippi".

Bisogni's orchard lies in the heart of the once-mighty Murray-Darling river system which irrigates Australia's food bowl, the vast southeastern corner responsible for 40 percent of agricultural output.

The eight-year 'big dry', the worst drought in a century, has devastated the region, an area covering 1.06 million square kilometres (410,000 square miles) -- the size of France and Spain combined.

Lack of water this year meant the fruit on Bisogni's apple and pear trees in Victoria state literally cooked on their branches under the furious Australian sun, making them suitable only for jam.

Rather than leave the land, like many farmers along the Murray, the tenacious 78-year-old Italian migrant scaled back his operation so he could use limited water resources to cultivate export-quality produce for Asia.


Why the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets are Not Collapsing

© unknown

Global warming alarmists have suggested that the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica may collapse, causing disastrous sea level rise. This idea is based on the concept of an ice sheet sliding down an inclined plane on a base lubricated by meltwater, which is itself increasing because of global warming.

In reality the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets occupy deep basins, and cannot slide down a plane. Furthermore glacial flow depends on stress (including the important yield stress) as well as temperature, and much of the ice sheets are well below melting point. The accumulation of kilometres of undisturbed ice in cores in Greenland and Antarctica (the same ones that are sometimes used to fuel ideas of global warming) show hundreds of thousands of years of accumulation with no melting or flow. Except around the edges, ice sheets flow at the base, and depend on geothermal heat, not the climate at the surface.

It is impossible for the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets to 'collapse'. In these days of alarmist warnings about climate warming, the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica have an important role. Many papers have described their melting at the present times, and dire predictions of many metres of sea level rise are common. Christoffersen and Hambrey published a typical paper on the Greenland ice sheet in Geology Today in May, 2006.

Bizarro Earth

4.5 Earthquake Rattles Cyprus

Cypriot authorities say a moderately strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.5 has shaken the eastern Mediterranean island. No damage or injuries have been reported.

The Cyprus Geological Survey Department says the quake occurred at 9:28 a.m. (0628 GMT; 2:28 a.m. EDT) Tuesday, 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) off the southern coastal resort of Limassol.

The Department said in a statement that the quake was felt in Limassol and surrounding villages, as well as by high-rise dwellers in the capital Nicosia, around 37 miles (60 kilometers) to the north.


Firefighters gain upper hand against Greek inferno

Exhausted firefighters contained on Monday wildfires which had been bearing down on Athens and threatened ancient Greek landmarks after a round-the-clock rescue effort.

But the authorities' response to the inferno came under criticism two years after similar wildfires that killed 77 people.

After a weekend of devastation which saw hundreds of residents evacuated from their homes in the suburbs, thousands of hectares of woodland reduced to cinders and fears that Athens would soon be choked by smoke, respite finally came when heavy winds died down.

Bizarro Earth

Mexico water body warns of risk of 'critical' shortage

Mexico's water commission warned Monday of the risk of a "critical" water shortage at the start of 2010 and called on state governments to act now to save water.

"El Nino (seasonal warming), climate change and low rainfall could increase drought in the country, and cause a critical situation in the first quarter of 2010," a Conagua statement said.

Farming and some water supplies across the country have already been hard hit by this year's drought.

Supplies for both public and private use could be affected next year, the statement said, pointing to record low levels at the Cutzamala reservoir which supplies the capital's urban sprawl.

The main problem in and around the city of some 20 million people, which once sat on lakes, was the over-exploitation of aquifers, the statement said.