California Drought may Have a Great Impact on World Food Prices

    17 February, 2014


    From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report.

    The western United States is suffering from a severe lack of rain, this extreme dry weather condition is called a drought. The dry area includes the large state of California. Many of the fruits and vegetables eaten in the United States are grown there.

    Andy Domenigoni is a farmer in Riverside, California. His father, grandfather and great grandfather all farmed in the same area. He says farmers have good and bad years, and this year is one of the bad ones.

    California Drought may Have a Great Impact on World Food Prices
    Drought in California as of January 15 (U.S. Drought Monitor)

    "I have some fields that we planted almost a month ago that are still not out of the ground," Domenigoni said.

    He says it usually takes five to seven days for the wheat to begin growing, but not this year. He shows us a brown field.

    "And you can see behind me, this field was planted two weeks ago and it is just bone dry. The seed is not in any moisture. It can't sprout. We got to wait for the rain," Domenigoni said.

    Mr Domenigoni is not the only person waiting for rain. Bill Patzert is climatologist of NASA - the American Space Agency. He says drought conditions in the American West and Southwest have been getting worse for the past ten years.

    "Ranchers in the West are selling off their livestock. Farmers all over the Southwest, from Texas to Oregon, are fallowing in their fields because of a lack of water. So for farmers and ranchers, this is a very painful drought," Patzert said.

    Mr Patzert says Southern California is dealing with the worst drought since officials begin keeping records more than 135 years ago.

    Milt McGiffen is a field crop expert at the University of California. He says the drought in his state is going to affect many people for many years to come.

    "The short-term impact is going to be higher food prices. The longer-term impact is going to be you're just not going to have as much production in the country. It's part of an overall trend in the next 50 years," said Milt McGiffen.

    He says as the population increases, the amount of water for each person is decreasing. And he says that can not continue. He says a technology solution is urgently needed.

    Bill Patzert of NASA says what happens on California farms affects Americans and people around the world. He says the California farms provide food for the United States, and export food to the world.

    A United Nations report said world food prices in 2013 were among the highest ever. Food experts say they will not know how much the drought in the western U.S. will affect the price of food for 2014 until later this year. Experts agree there is no easy for quick answer to the problem of making sure farmers have enough water to grow their crops.

    And that's the Agriculture Report. For more agriculture stories, go to our website, where you can also find transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports. I'm Christopher Cruise.