Our Changing Weather Patterns

The Lempert Report
January 26, 2016

How at risk is our food supply?

Last year’s Bird Flu epidemic drove egg and poultry prices to their highest level in years, now it appears that nature has created another epidemic with milk prices on the rise. Goliath, the end of the year winter storm ravaged the Midwest and Northeast and killed 30,000 dairy cows in less than one week.
The dairy cows were in Texas and New Mexico, areas typically not affected by snow, where drifts measured 14 feet high and buried the cows alive.
Darren Turley, executive director of the Texas Association of Dairymen said it best – and is a wake up call for farmers all over the world - ““Like all agriculture, dairy producers always operate at the mercy of Mother Nature.” An additional problem is that the remaining dairy cows are expected to have a lower yield of milk also due to the impact of the storm since in many areas the cows were not milked for two days, and without their regular milkings the milk supply wanes.
One of the most intelligent solutions that I have heard is to maximize our food production and water use in agriculture by shifting what crops are grown where, in essence, crops grow in the bio-regions of the country that offer the best suited soil, water and climate for a particular crop. Alfalfa as example has been called out as one of the most water thirsty crops. In a November 2011 report entitled California Agriculture Role in the Economy and Water Use published by the Center for Irrigation Technology, the report forecasted what the outcome would be to reallocate resources – a five percent shift in acreage from alfalfa to a low water-use crop of fresh tomatoes. The result was a savings of 131,810 acre-feet of water. No surprise, the decrease in acreage created a drop in the value of the alfalfa crop of $37.9 million; but the fresh tomato crop increased by $494.5 million.