Drought-caused price increases likely

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webmaster | 03/19/14
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I have heard some farmers hereabouts predict that if they are forced to fallow their fields because of the drought, the effects will be felt nation-wide, and possibly even world wide because of shortages of certain foods and higher prices.

A lot of us may find that hard to believe — that there could be food shortages in America. But it has happened, and not so long ago.

Many of us remember when a shortage of beef hit in the early 1970s. For various reasons, cow numbers were down, and as a result the number of cattle available for market was significantly reduced. It takes about two years to raise a beef animal to the optimum slaughter weight — if you have the cows to produce them. It can take a while to build a herd back up once it is reduced, and you have to add that time to the feeding period.

Thus, beef prices shot upward. If you could find beef, you paid dearly for it. Prices on restaurant menus for beef items went way up.

Prices for other meats went up, too. That was because the demand for poultry and pork to substitute for beef increased. The prices for fish also rose.

The newspaper I worked for back then had a sales contest in which the first prize was 100 pounds of prime beef steaks. Subscription numbers went way up, so eager were readers to have a chance at such a prize. But there was a problem. The publisher at the time was a city boy. He didn’t really understand what giving away 100 pounds of beef steaks in that economic environment meant.

He had quite a time coming up with 100 pounds of prime steaks. The wholesalers were taking care of their grocery and restaurant customers first. The newspaper would have to wait, and it did. And when he finally did get the beef it cost about $500 more than he had budgeted.

Milk and meat prices are on the way up even as I write this. According to The Wall Street Journal, fruit, grain and vegetable prices are likely to follow. As a result of that, some of us, if not many, are likely to suffer.

 

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