Midwest consumers feel impact of California drought

Imagine going to the grocery store and not being able to find the ingredients to make a salad or find the perfect cut of steak for a reasonable price. For many years, the western states have suffered extreme drought conditions that, in turn, have had an impact on the flow of products into grocery stores all across Missouri. The beef industry seems to have taken the hardest hit; while produce products appear to be on the rebound, according to Jennifer Schutter-Barnes, a horticulture specialist with the University of Missouri Extension in Adair County.

This severe drought has not only caused a lack of products on store shelves, it has also caused prices to rise drastically. John Bocke, a meat and produce buyer for Niemann Foods Inc. in Quincy, Illinois, said this is particularly true within the beef industry.

“The drought conditions caused ranchers to reduce their herds as pastures were drying up and buying feed was very expensive,” Bocke said. “It takes cattle a good three to three and a half years to rebound in supply, so the drought has had a prolonged effect.”

According to Bocke, the rebound rates of poultry and pork were much quicker, so the prices were able to stay the same for the most part. From past experience and industry knowledge, Bocke believes that the forecast for beef prices will continue to be high for quite some time. The increase in price could mean a drastic decrease in sales.

Sherry Nelson, human development specialist at the University of Missouri Extension in Marion County, refers to the National Drought Mitigation Center for her research. They have analyzed the drought conditions for the past year and, based on the data, Nelson said the conditions are worsening. Most weather reports suggests the drought will continue with no relief for months to come. This could mean that prices and availability of beef products could be a problem for the average consumer. In addition to Nelson’s conclusions, Bocke added that while this may seem like a grim fortune for the beef industry, it could mean a large increase in pork and chicken sales.

Missouri farmers in the Adair County area who grow sweet corn have helped to compensate for any shortages of that popular vegetable caused by the drought, according to Schutter-Barnes.

“California vegetables are being filled in with produce from a wide variety of places, mostly Washington, Oregon, Texas, and Mexico,” Schutter-Barnes said.

She also explained that sweet corn prices have actually gone down. Most of the farmers that she deals with are keeping their prices low because there is such a surplus.

While some consumers may need to alter the way they shop for groceries to prepare their favorite meals, others may see no change. One thing is for certain though – according to the National Drought Mitigation Center’s research, this severe drought shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.

Sarah Goellner

About the Author

My name is Sarah Goellner, and I am currently a science and ag journalism major at the University of Missouri. I received my associate degree from Moberly Area Community College before transferring to MU. I grew up in Palmyra, Missouri, with an older sister, Rebecca. Agriculture has deep roots in my family. My uncles’ and cousins’ farms surrounded my home, and I was always included in the daily activities. I was deeply involved 4-H and FFA throughout my childhood. I have always had an interest in writing and journalism. After graduation, I hope to be able to communicate and market the field of agriculture to a large audience. I am excited to work for Corner Post for the third semester because it will give me more experience needed to pursue my future career. I look forward to adding more stories to my portfolio in order to gain a career in the agricultural marketing field upon graduation.