"crops" news and stories
One of the great treats I had while driving through Kentucky last spring were the biscuits with sorghum-butter spread at a Louisville diner. The sweet, whipped spread melted on the hot fluffy biscuits, tasting lightly of honey. I'd heard of sorghum before, but I wasn't sure exactly what it was.
Sorghum syrup is made from the juice of the sweet sorghum cane, which grows all over the southeastern United States. African slaves introduced sorghum cane to the country in the early 17th century, and it rapidly became popular across the Midwest and, later, the South. A drought-resistant, heat-tolerant crop, it was hoped that sorghum could be used as a substitute for sugar cane, but extracting dry sugar from the syrup proved too difficult.
Sorghum syrup, which tends to be a medium brown in color, can often be used as a substitute for honey or corn syrup. Check out this site for a variety of sorghum recipes, including baked beans, shoo-fly pie, and old-fashioned sorghum cake.
Orange juice sales have already dropped over the past few years, likely in part due to the influx of new drink products on the market every week, but also due to the rapidly increasing prices of the product. An economist with the Agricultural Department states that the juice "has gone up 80 cents per gallon" over the past year alone, and prices are expected to rise even more due to the recent devastation.
One of the largest culprits, citrus canker disease, has destroyed thousands of acres of fruit-bearing trees, reportedly leaving oranges with brown, raised lesions. Crops in California aren't faring much better after suffering a devastating freeze earlier this year. In fact, nationwide orange production is estimated to be down approximately 18 percent overall this year.
This discovery shows that chili peppers were one of the oldest domesticated foods in the world. More research is planned to try and discover exactly how the people living in villages in Ecuador at that time used the chilies.
California has been hit by an unusually bad cold snap this year and the effects of the freezing weather have really taken a toll on crops - and the bad weather isn't even over yet. Some estimates say that at least 75% of the citrus crop has been destroyed and others say even more, drawing from the more than 80% that was ruined the last time the state suffered a severe cold snap. The weather is so bad that Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in the 10 agricultural counties that have been hardest hit by the weather.
86% of the lemons and 21% of all the oranges sold in the US are grown in California, which makes it the largest citrus-producing state in the country. The loss of crops is devastating to the farmers, but it will also hit consumers hard at the grocery store. Orange and lemon prices are already increasing and the wholesale price has more than doubled in the last seven days alone. Juice prices will increase as well. "The price spike is expected to hit supermarkets in the next two weeks, when the present inventory dwindles."
While citrus is taking the biggest hit, basically every winter crop in California has been damaged, from avocados to lettuce, and consumers across the country will feel the effects of doubling and tripling prices in the produce department, especially if they want to buy US-grown fruits and vegetables.
In light of the E. coli and botulism problems over the past few months that have been linked to California growers, there has been a proposal that new standards should be implemented to ensure that consumers will feel safe and comfortable buying California produce. Most growers have already increased the amount of oversight that their produce recieives, but the new plan involves the creaton of a "seal of approval" for all leafy vegetables. The standards for the seal have not yet been determined, but growers and lawmakers plan to iron out the details later this spring. Issues being considered are how to more effectively test irrigation water and how to keep livestock, primarily cattle, away from cropland.
In spite of the fact that there is no actual plan in place yet, the idea of a "seal of approval" is already being met with opposition, with critics saying that "the industry's proposal relies too heavily on policing itself." This could be a strong argument in other industries, but when it comes to food safety, no one wants to make sure consumers are protected more than the growers whose livelihoods depend on consumer satisfaction with, and confidence in, their products.