Tuesday, March 26, 2013

March 2012
As the sun shines and the snow melts I am reminded of the summer of 12 and this article I wrote for the Clintonville Farmers’ Market newsletter…

Summer of 12  “Aporkalypse”  Now? 

Bone dry. Hot as Hades, and maybe a summer we want to forget now that cool, fall temperatures are here.
While thankful for every growing season, this past year was difficult for many Central Ohio producers.    In a survey near the end of summer, Market Manager Laura Zimmerman found that producers said their yield was down by 25% and some yields were down as much as 50%.   Yet, for a lucky few producers, yields were the same or even up this year.
While any things impact yields – heat, cold, rain, wind, irrigation, soil condition, drought resistant plants, time, field workers, and broken machinery – this year weather was the main problem – too much heat and not enough rain.  
According to the National Climatic Data Center, the historic drought of 2012 covered nearly two-thirds of the contiguous U.S.  In fact, drought covered 65.45% of the Lower 48 states on September 25, a record during the 13-year history of the U.S. Drought Monitor.  The good news is that recent generous rains have helped range land, pastures, and recently planted winter wheat from the southern half of the Plains into the Ohio Valley. That’s good news for those of us who like bread!
Where there isn’t rain, there isn’t a crop.  The USDA says the impact of the drought has the potential to increase retail prices for beef, pork, poultry, and dairy products later this year and into 2013. But in the short term, drought conditions may lead to herd culling in response to higher feed costs, and short term increases in meat supply. This could decrease prices for some meat products in the short term. That trend would reverse over time after product supplies shrink.
Here’s how this weather to crop thing works --  Historically, if the farm price of corn increases 50 percent, then retail food prices increase by 0.5 to 1 percent.  We know from every trip to the grocery, that retail food prices bounce around depending on supply and demand.  Expect that again this fall and winter.   USDA reports inflation has averaged 2.5-3 percent annually for the past 20 years, and 2012 is no different. They predict, next year, a slight increase above those historical averages when food price inflation is expected to be between 3 percent and 4 percent, with increases centralized in animal products--eggs, meat, and dairy.   So “Aporkalypse” as the rumored bacon shortage has been dubbed, may not be a problem in Ohio, but you’re likely to pay more moola for that bacon.
Regardless of the weather and the price of pigs in or outside a poke, the summer of 2012 was challenging for our local producers.   Keep them in mind as you make your own food plans for the coming year.  Buy local and keep supporting the local farmers and producers you met at the market this year.  Your support keeps them coming back year after year.