Beef Prices Reach Highest Level Since 1987

English: Australian Brangus steer

English: Australian Brangus steer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) – The highest beef prices in almost three decades have arrived just before the start of grilling season, causing sticker shock for both consumers and restaurant owners – and relief isn’t likely anytime soon.

A dwindling number of cattle and growing export demand from countries such as China and Japan have caused the average retail cost of fresh beef to climb to $5.28 a pound in February, up almost a quarter from January and the highest price since 1987.

Everything that’s produced is being consumed, said Kevin Good, an analyst at CattleFax, a Colorado-based information group. And prices likely will stay high for a couple of years as cattle producers start to rebuild their herds amid big questions about whether the Southwest and parts of the Midwest will see enough rain to replenish pastures.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/business/20140412_ap_47ea27a0b2244eaea2cabae2a074edb6.html#1ZmJqCrp08y35k34.99

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Days Of Promise Fade For Ethanol

Editor’s note:  Wondering when we will end our dependence on foreign oil?  This isn’t the way to do it!

Backed by government subsidies and mandates, hundreds of ethanol plants rose among the golden fields of the Corn Belt, bringing jobs and business to small towns, providing farmers with a new market for their crops and generating billions of dollars in revenue for the producers of this corn-based fuel blend.

Those days of promise and prosperity are vanishing.

Nearly 10 percent of the nation’s ethanol plants have stopped production over the past year, in part because the drought that has ravaged much of the nation’s crops pushed commodity prices so high that ethanol has become too expensive to produce.

A dip in gasoline consumption has compounded the industry’s problem by reducing the demand for ethanol.

Read more:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/17/us/17ethanol.html?hp&_r=0

2012 Was Hottest Year Ever In U.S.

WASHINGTON – America set an off-the-charts heat record in 2012.

A brutal combination of a widespread drought and a mostly absent winter pushed the average annual U.S. temperature last year up to 55.32 degrees Fahrenheit, the government announced Tuesday.  That’s a full degree warmer than the old record set in 1998.

Breaking temperature records by an entire degree is unprecedented, scientists say.  Normally, records are broken by a tenth of a degree or so.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/us/2012-was-hottest-year-ever-in-us-669515/#ixzz2HR9fxKLW

Mayans Themselves May Have Aided Collapse Of Empire

Editor’s note:  Sounds like history is repeating itself in the Amazon!

The city states of the ancient Mayan empire flourished in southern Mexico and northern Central America for about six centuries.  Then, around A.D. 900, Mayan civilization disintegrated.

Two new studies examine the reasons for the collapse of the Mayan culture, finding the Mayans themselves contributed to the downfall of the empire.

Scientists have found that drought played a key role, but the Mayans appear to have exacerbated the problem by cutting down the jungle canopy to make way for cities and crops, according to researchers who used climate-model simulations to see how much deforestation aggravated the drought.

“We’re not saying deforestation explains the entire drought, but it does explain a substantial portion of the overall drying that is thought to have occurred,” said the study’s lead author, Benjamin Cook, a climate modeler at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, in a statement.

Read more: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48752012/ns/technology_and_science-science/?ocid=ansmsnbc11#.UDeyksFlQkI

Drought May Sink Mississippi River Commerce

ABOARD THE DREDGE POTTER, on the Mississippi River — This ship is making sure that the Big River, shrinking under one of the worst droughts in modern history, stays deep enough.

The Potter is scooping this stretch of the Mississippi River’s navigation channel just south of St. Louis, the ship’s 32-foot-wide head sucking up about 60,000 cubic yards of sediment each day and depositing it via a long discharge pipe a thousand feet to the side in a violent, muddy plume that smells like muck and summer.

The Army Corps of Engineers has more than a dozen dredging vessels working the Mississippi this summer.  Despite being fed by water flowing in from more than 40 percent of the United States, the river is feeling the ruinous drought affecting so much of the Midwest.  Some stretches are nearing the record low-water levels experienced in 1988, when river traffic was suspended in several spots.

That is unlikely this year, because of careful engineering work to keep the largest inland marine system in the world passable.  But tow operators are dealing with the shallower channel by hauling fewer barges, loading them lighter and running them more slowly, raising their costs.  Since May, about 60 vessels have run aground in the lower Mississippi.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/us/drought-may-sink-mississippi-river-commerce-649733/#ixzz246DvXrjq

U.S. Farmers Expect Poorest Corn Crop In A Decade

ST. LOUIS – A deepening drought in the nation’s farm states has cut further into this fall’s harvest, with farmers now expected to pull from their fields the lowest corn yield in more than a decade.

But American farmers are still expected to produce their eighth-largest harvest ever, and while there’s sure to be a rise in prices at the grocery stores, there’s little risk of a failed harvest that would lead to shortages on the shelves.

The U.S. Agriculture Department predicted the nation’s biggest harvest ever in the spring, when farmers planted 96.4 million acres of corn – the most since 1937. But it cut its estimate a month ago and again Friday, saying it now expects the nation to produce 10.8 billion bushels, the least since 2006.

Read more: http://business-news.thestreet.com/the-mercury/story/us-farmers-expect-poorest-corn-crop-decade-0/1

Bicyclist Hit By Tree On Thun Trail During Last Night’s Violent Storm

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man riding his bicycle on the Thun Trail next to the Schuylkill River was hit on the head and knocked down by a falling tree Thursday night as a powerful thunderstorm roared through Berks County, felling trees, power lines and even street signs.

The rider, a middle-aged man who was not identified by emergency personal, managed to call 9-1-1 for help from under the large tree, which shattered his helmet and mangled his mountain bike.

The accident happened at 7:20 p.m. as the storm knocked down trees and wires across Berks. Transformers blew up, alarms went off in homes and commercial buildings and the lights flickered in the city.

County emergency dispatchers were able to direct city firefighters to a general area along the trail after using cell towers to triangulate the location of the injured man’s cellphone.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=403839

Great Year For York County Apple Crop

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

Image via Wikipedia

Considering the earthquake, tornadoes, flooding, drought, excessive heat and stink bugs, York County‘s apple crop could end up having a banner year.  Many fruits and vegetables did not fare well this summer with the erratic weather.  However, the apple crop has been unaffected.  The rain has kept the stink bugs at bay.   One York County apple grower referred to her crop as “tremendous”.

Adjoining Adams County is the number one fruit producing county in the state.  Experts fear that climate change could limit apple production to the northern counties of Pennsylvania by mid-century.

For Berks County Farmers, It’s Location, Location, Location

Unusual strains of maize are collected to incr...

Image via Wikipedia

Who would have ever thought proximity to Route 422 would be a litmus test for a good corn crop?  Certainly not I.  However, that is the case in Berks County.  Farms south of 422 are in good shape and farms north of 422 are suffering. 

July’s above normal temperatures, coupled with a lack of rain has caused tremendous damage to corn crops in Berks County located north of 422.  Farms south of 422 received more rain and the clay-like soil holds moisture better.  Most farms in Berks County do not use irrigation to water crops.

Berks County is not the only place where the corn crop is doing poorly.  Nationwide it is estimated that corn yields will be down 40 percent!  This translates into higher prices at the supermarket for you and I!

Another casualty of the heat has been milk production.  Cows do not like heat (sounds familiar) and when they are hot they eat less and produce less milk!

D Is For Drought!

I have wondered how long it would take before we started talking about water problems with this hot, dry summer!

Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties are under drought warning.  Chester and Delaware are under drought watch.

We are being asked to conserve water between 10% and 15% under a drought warning.

All of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties are being asked to conserve water!