FarmPolicy

December 16, 2017

Ag Economy Update- Calif. Drought; International Issues

Joseph Serna reported in today’s Los Angeles Times that, “When it’s as dry as it has been for three years, a couple of weeks of sporadic rain or a big storm or two in Los Angeles can make it seem as though Southern California is getting a healthy dose of rainfall.

But in fact, the city’s rain totals since Oct. 1 — the beginning of a rain year that ends Sept. 30 — show that L.A. is still on pace for a below-average year.”

The article noted that, “About 3.88 inches of rain fell on downtown L.A. in December, the most in that month in four years. And the region has been doused by more rainfall just in the last few days. But between that December and this February there was January — the month that is the traditional portal to Southern California’s three wettest months.

“And that month was very dry, with just over an inch of rain. The average rainfall in January for downtown L.A. is over 3 inches.

When the Southland has been in an awful dry streak for several years, a middling rain year can come across as more substantial than it actually is.”

Today’s article added that, “‘It’s a lot compared to the last three years, but the last three years were the driest in the history of California,’ said Bill Patzert, a climatologist with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. ‘If you think we’ve turned around on the drought, stop smoking whatever you’re smoking.'”

More broadly, Reuters writer Gustavo Bonato reported today that, “A growing protest by Brazilian truck drivers against high fuel prices entered a seventh day on Tuesday, interrupting supplies of diesel and food across several commodity-rich states at the start of harvest season.

“The protests are part of a reaction to the return of fuel taxes, one of several unpopular measures that President Dilma Rousseff is counting on to shore up government fiscal accounts.”

The article added that, “Truckers started restricting the flow of goods along BR 163, the main highway running through top soybean-producing state Mato Grosso, on Feb. 18 but the demonstrations quickly spread and spilled into as many as six states by Monday, including Minas Gerais, Parana, Goias and Rio Grande do Sul.”

And Reuters writers Polina Devitt and Pavel Polityuk reported that, “Officials in both Russia and Ukraine are considering tougher trade protections to keep food prices from spiralling as their currencies collapse, with Moscow taking more aggressive steps than Kiev to control exports.

“The two countries, on opposite sides of a war in eastern Ukraine that has killed more than 5,600 people, are both among the world’s biggest exporters of wheat, through Black Sea ports that help feed Africa and the Middle East.

“Both have seen their currencies collapse in the past year, making exports more valuable in local terms and driving up the politically sensitive domestic price of food.”

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