One of the industries least affected by the recession was agriculture. This is about to be undermined:
Already, the U.S. Agriculture Department has designated 1,016 counties in 26 states as natural disaster areas — meaning hard-hit farmers in those areas can apply for low-interest emergency loans from USDA. According to Bloomberg, that’s “the biggest such declaration ever.”
Weather Underground’s Jeff Masters adds that the costs associated with this drought “are certain to be many billions of dollars, and the disaster could be one of the top 10 most expensive weather-related disasters in U.S. history.” As he points out, “droughts historically have been some of the costliest U.S. weather disasters.”
It looks like the federal government has acknowledged the damages with the surge of disaster declarations, however this is just the beginning of a steep decline in American agriculture.
The Ogallala aquifer is a source of water for much of the midwest’s agriculture. This aquifer began to be tapped heavily in and around the 1950s, but has seen incredible declines since that time.
What we’re seeing today is probably a function of climate change. What we see tomorrow will be a combination of climate change and the tapping out of one of the largest underground bodies of water on the planet. The duo will be absolutely devastating to American farmers, yet at the moment, there isn’t much of a push to do anything but business as usual. The stalled 2012 Farm Bill is light on anything resembling a rescue of the aquifer. It will probably take a disaster with regard to the aquifer before the issue is addressed.
One has to wonder if this current crisis will provide an opportunity to reverse our current path toward ultra expensive food.