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5/14/2007

Withering drought worsens; Georgia crops at risk

Georgia, USA

May, 2007
Crops are at risk because of a drought that has reached extreme conditions in 33 out of 159 counties. The dry weather is the WORST SEEN IN 38 YEARS by the agriculture department director. There have been longer and harsher droughts in the past, but he can't remember a year that was so dry this early. Apples, peaches and other crops that help make agriculture a $50 billion industry in Georgia are suffering badly. Fruit trees were already hard hit by an April freeze. Unless the state sees a dramatic increase in rainfall in the next few months, some farmers could lose their entire harvests. That could cripple the economy in Georgia's farm communities and drive up prices on peanut butter, fresh produce and the other crops that survive. The extreme drought conditions in 33 counties are expected by weather experts only ONCE EVERY 50 YEARS. Another 46 counties are rated as having severe drought, meaning the dry spell is as bad as experts would expect ONCE IN 20 YEARS. The rest of the state is under a moderate drought.

CROP FAILURE/ FOOD SHORTAGE

CALIFORNIA - CATTLE - San Luis Obispo County cattle ranchers are selling cattle off in RECORD NUMBERS after this season’s meager rainfall failed to produce enough grasses to sustain their herds. Cows and their calves are being sold nearly two months earlier than usual — and at lower weights — because ranchers say they’d rather sell than pay for expensive feed. Cattle and calves are the second most valuable agricultural product in the county, valued at more than $59 million last year. They are second only to wine grapes, which are valued at $151 million. The last dry season that pushed them to sell early struck in the late 1980s or early 1990s. “It’s been a long time since we’ve had a year like this, and I don’t know if it was this bad." Calves are weighing in about 450 pounds, when they often weigh as much as 650 pounds at the time of sale.
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