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Sat, 09 Dec 2023
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Earth Changes


Guatemala at food shortage risk after drought

Guatemala is at risk of a food shortage because a drought has reduced more than 60 percent of the production of corns and beans in five key provinces, the Food Security Ministry said on Monday.

According to news reaching here, the ministry said the worst hit provinces are Zacapa, Chiquimula, Jalapa, Jutiapa and El Progreso. In El Progreso, 90 percent of the bean crops that farmers planted have been lost.

Around 4,000 settlements across those provinces will suffer food shortages, a figure which represents around 80 percent of the population there.

State-run welfare body the Social Cohesion Council said it is already financially supporting 136 towns at the highest risk.

In May, the government approved a plan worth 273 million quetzals (around 33 million U.S. dollars) to cover such emergencies.


Canada: Alberta ranchers forced to sell herds

Alberta cattle drought
Many Alberta ranchers are being forced to sell cattle because drought and hail have decimated pastures and sent the price of hay spiking.

Many ranchers across Alberta are being forced to sell off part of their herds because they can't afford to feed them.

The summer drought has more than doubled the price of hay and a hail storm earlier this month damaged what was left of many farmers' pastures.

Loretta Blain and her husband, who have ranched near Olds for 40 years, have just had to sell most of their cattle.

"This year, I have talked to so many people who are in the same position as us that are having to sell their cows," Blain said. "I don't know where there are going to be cows had in this country pretty soon."

Many cattle producers face the same situation. They've had a series of difficulties over the last seven years: a drought, export problems with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), a huge jump in the price of fuel and this summer's drought and hail.


U.S. Corn, Soybean Crops Stunted by Unusual Weather

Corn and soybean crops in the U.S., the world's largest grower, may be smaller than the government predicted after planting delays and an unusual dry spell, said Jerry Gidel at North American Risk Management Services Inc.

Parts of the Midwest, the main growing region, received less than 50 percent of normal rainfall in the past 30 days, according to the High Plains Regional Climate Center in Lincoln, Nebraska. Corn plants that farmers will begin harvesting next month are growing at about half the five-year average, and the rate of pod-filling by soybeans is 17 percentage points below normal, U.S. Department of Agriculture data show.

Corn prices plunged 43 percent in the past year partly because the USDA predicted the second-largest crop ever, and soybeans are down 23 percent on the government's forecast for record production of the oilseed. Analysts, traders, farmers and processors who start the annual seven-state Professional Farmers of America Midwest Crop Tour today probably will find fields are likely to produce less than expected, Gidel said.

Cow Skull

US: Wyoming drought thins cattle herds

Cheyenne - Wyoming's cattle population dropped 21 percent during the past decade as ranchers struggled through a persistent drought that gripped much of the state from 1999 until last year.

The cattle count in Wyoming fell from 1.66 million in 1998 to 1.3 million in 2008, according to the newly released 2009 Wyoming Agricultural Statistics report. January's count was up 3 percent from the year before.

The United States Department of Agriculture, the Wyoming Business Council and the University of Wyoming produce the annual report.

Wyoming is particularly sensitive to drought cycles because ranchers in the state rely heavily on grazing forage rather than irrigated pastures or croplands, agriculture officials said.

"When we have drought, we just don't have the carrying capacity out on the range, you can't put as many out there," said Jason Fearneyhough, Wyoming Department of Agriculture director. "So people have got to sell off cattle to maintain the range and also to maintain the economic viability of their place."

A drought ranging from moderate to severe gripped Wyoming -- the nation's fifth driest state -- starting in 1999 until conditions eased in mid-2008, according to the State Climate Office. Last year saw improved but spotty moisture around the state, while 2009 has been a plentiful year for mountain snowpack as well as spring and summer rains.


US: Food Firms Warn of Sugar Shortage

sugar imports India
© Bloomberg
Workers 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 shortages...in 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 Wisconsin
Central 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-Presse
Algae 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.