The biggest current threat to the U.S. food supply is the extraordinary drought that has had a relentless grip on the western half of the country. If you check out the U.S. Drought Monitor, you can see that drought conditions currently stretch from California all the way to the heart of Texas. In fact, the worst drought in the history of the state of California is happening right now. And considering the fact that the rest of the nation is extremely dependent on produce grown in California and cattle raised in the western half of the U.S., this should be of great concern to all of us.
According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. interior west is now the driest that it has been in 500 years. Snowpack in the Sierra’s is 15% of normal.
California already lost 40% of the citrus crop due to the freeze in December. Driving into Fresno you can see much of the orange crop still on the trees rotting. Without the income from the crop, the farmers can’t pay the workers to pick it.
In the late fall 2013 there was a freak snowstorm that killed close to 300,000+ cattle. This is a major hit to the cattle market. Government data shows that the U.S. cattle herd contracted, for six straight years, to the smallest since 1952. A record drought in 2011 destroyed pastures in Texas, the top producing state, followed the next year by a surge in feed-grain prices during the worst Midwest dry spell since the 1930s. Fewer cattle will mean production in the $85 billion beef industry drops to a 20-year low in 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said. Texas beef ranchers, currently in a 5 year drought, have to ship grass bails in from Colorado, Utah and other parts of the country just to feed the cattle.
And it isn’t just the U.S. that is dealing with this kind of drought. The largest freshwater lake in China that was once about twice the size of London, England has almost entirely dried up because of the ongoing drought over there.
If this drought ends and the western half of the nation starts getting lots of rain, this could just be a temporary crisis.
However, the truth is that scientific research has shown that the 20th century was the wettest century in the western half of the country in 1000 years, and we should expect things to return to “normal” at some point.
In July 2007 a few dozen climate specialists gathered at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory to discuss the past and future of the world’s drylands, especially the Southwest. On the first morning, much of the talk was about medieval megadroughts. Scott Stine of California State University, East Bay, presented vivid evidence that they had extended beyond the Colorado River basin, well into California.
Stine found two distinct generations, corresponding to two distinct droughts. The first had begun sometime before 900 and lasted over two centuries. There followed several extremely wet decades, not unlike those of the early 20th century. Then the next epic drought kicked in for 150 years, ending around 1350. Stine estimates that the runoff into Sierran lakes during the droughts must have been less than 60 percent of the modern average, and it may have been as low as 25 percent, for decades at a time. “What we have come to consider normal is profoundly wet,” Stine said. “We’re kidding ourselves if we think that’s going to continue, with or without global warming.”
At a time when the United States is facing the greatest water crisis that it has ever known, our government is allowing water from the Great Lakes to be drained, bottled, and shipped to China and other countries around the globe. Right now, the Great Lakes hold approximately 21 percent of the total supply of fresh water in the entire world.
“Two of the Great Lakes have hit their lowest water levels EVER RECORDED,” the US Army Corps of Engineers reported early this year. Corps measurements taken in January of 2013 “show Lake Huron and Lake Michigan have reached their lowest ebb since record keeping began in 1918.” The chief watershed hydrology expert warns Americans that “We’re in an extreme situation.”
Lake Michigan water is being shipped by boat loads over to China! By using a little known loophole in the 2006 Great Lakes Compact, our government is allowing Nestle Company to export precious fresh water out of Lake Michigan to the tune of an estimated $500,000 to $1.8 million per day profit. All of this is happening at a time when the U.S. is getting ready to deal with the greatest water crisis this nation has ever known.
According to a Reuters article from just a few weeks ago, the state of California is currently experiencing the driest year ever recorded. According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. interior west is now the driest that it has been in 500 years. – S.W.