Natural News ~ Water costs skyrocket 1,000% where half the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts are grown

My comment on this article? It’s not too late to start a fall and winter garden. Cool season crops like spinach, kale, broccoli, Chinese greens (tat soi, bok choy), fava beans and some chards actually grow better in cooler weather. If you get a cold frame, green house and/or floating row covers, depending on your climate zone, you can extend the season even further, perhaps all winter long!

Mulch, hugelkultur, keyhole designs and Garden Towers help to conserve water usage, and you need less water during cooler weather anyway. If you’ve never gardened before, this year might be just the year to try an herb garden in a sunny window. Yes, gardening takes some time and money to set up, but in this case, you’ll receive almost immediate cost benefits.

Plus, gardening makes you happy — a perfect antidote to this world’s insanity. Pick a crisis, any crisis … then get your hands in the dirt and you’re guaranteed to feel better. I’m not exaggerating, either. For proof, read here: Antidepressant microbes in soil: How dirt makes you happy. In a world gone mad, gardening provides cheap therapy and free food. What’s not to love? For those more economically motivated, here’s a fall forecast on food prices:

Natural News ~ Water costs skyrocket 1,000 % where half the nation’s fruits, vegetables and nuts are grown

(NaturalNews) It is not as if there aren’t any economic factors influencing the price of groceries these days. Transportation alone, thanks to skyrocketing fuel prices, has lifted the cost of everything we buy at the grocery store. Now, one of the worst droughts in U.S. history is making the one thing absolutely vital for food production — an ample water supply — more expensive as well, and that, ultimately, will translate into even higher prices at the market.

To set the stage, back in February the U.S. Bureau or Reclamation released its first outlook of the year, in which the agency found insufficient water stocks in California to release to farmers for irrigation. That was the first time in the 54-year history of the State Water Project that had happened.

“If it’s not there, it’s just not there,” said Water Authority Executive Director Steve Chedester, who noted that it would be tough finding water in the coming year or more. Farmers were to be hardest hit, the official added, stating, “They’re all on pins and needles trying to figure out how they’re going to get through this.”

‘Paying as much as 10 times more’

One way to deal with the drought is for farmers to plant fewer fields, which would mean that early on there would be fewer crops; in the law of supply and demand, when supply is reduced but demand remains high, prices rise.

The other option would be farmers being forced to pay premium prices for the remaining available water, which would also add to the final cost of crops — costs that would have to be passed on to consumers.

Fast-forward to late summer 2014: As the drought has only worsened over the summer, farmers in California’s Central Valley, which is by far the world’s most productive agricultural region, are paying as much as 10 times more for water than they did before the state’s record dry spell forced officials to cut water supplies earlier this year.

As reported by Bloomberg Briefs, costs to raise crops in California have soared to $1,100 an acre, or $140 more per acre than last year in the Fresno-based Westlands Water District, a region representing 700 farms, according to Gayle Holman, a spokeswoman for the district. Meanwhile, north of the state capital of Sacramento, in the Western Canal Water District, water is selling for double the usual price: $500 per acre-foot, which is about 326,000 gallons.

The most severe shortages have occurred in the San Joaquin Valley, in an area from Bakersfield to Patterson and Chowchilla, said Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, a group based in Sacramento that represents farmers and most agricultural irrigation districts in the state.

Whole states are running dry

The drought, as it worsens, threatens also to dramatically increase production costs that are already high in part because of an unexpected, unseasonable December frost, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last month, analysts said they believe that the price of fresh fruit will rise as much as 6 percent this year.

Meanwhile, dairy products — of which California is the largest producer — could rise as much as 4 percent. Following three years of record-low rainfall, 82 percent of California is currently undergoing extreme drought conditions, per the U.S. Drought Monitor, a federal website.

Mat Maucieri, a spokesman for the Bureau of Reclamation, said that the rising food prices are “a function of supply and demand in a very dry year and the fact that there are a lot of competing uses for water in California.”

As shown on the U.S. Drought Monitor website, the entire states of California, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico, along with most of Texas, Utah and Oregon, are experiencing various levels of drought conditions. California is, by far, experiencing the worst.


2 responses to this post.

  1. Laura, You’ve probably written about this before, but what’s you favorite kind of mulch? Your garden looks amazing!


  2. Thanks, Diana! I use leaf mulch in the fall to cover my beds for the winter (unless I’m planting in them for a fall or winter crop, in which case straw is supposedly better for the winter). Most of my in ground beds have deep layers of wood mulch, which I get free from an arborist in Goshen.

    I highly recommend the movie Back to Eden if you’re interested in wood mulch for a garden. There are specific ways to use it, but if you do it right, you get incredibly rich soil that’s resistant to both drought and floods. The wood mulch acts like a sponge, absorbing excess water and releasing it when the plants need it. I think Back to Eden is still free to watch online.

    My raised beds this year don’t have mulch, since I’m growing squash and cantaloupe in them. The big leaves shade the soil, and I was having a major earwig issue with mulch in the raised beds! For awhile I was trapping them in beer. Then I just removed the mulch as the leaves grew large enough to shade the soil.


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