Extreme weather is upending the US food system. As the climate crisis causes temperatures to rise, precipitation patterns to shift and drought conditions to lengthen, many crops are struggling to grow as they would under normal weather conditions. In some parts of the country, crops that require dry conditions are getting too much rain, while in others, they’re not getting enough.
Florida: Oranges torn off trees
After Hurricane Ian ripped through Florida’s Gulf coast counties in late September, citrus growers in the state’s main agricultural counties began reporting that 50% to 90% of their fruit had been torn off the trees by high winds and rain.
The US Department of Agriculture predicted that the state will produce 28 mln boxes of oranges this season, down 32% from the previous season. And the impact of Hurricane Ian may not yet be over; in some areas, the storm didn’t just cause fruit to fall, but entirely uprooted or flooded trees.
California: Tomatoes hit by drought
In August, the USDA forecasted that California would only grow 10.5 mln tons of tomatoes, down 10% from its estimates at the beginning of the year, due to extreme droughts.
California usually produces about 30% of the world’s processing tomatoes, but now, researchers predict that the global supply of processing tomatoes could fall by 6% in the next 30 years due to climate change.
New Mexico: Green chilis flooded
In southern New Mexico, record rainfall disrupted the state’s green chilli harvest. A combination of heavy rainfall and a labor shortage led to flooded fields which were then overtook with weeds.
Normally, southern New Mexico provides the perfect climate for the chilli harvest. But this year, parts of the state recorded their wettest monsoon seasons since 1893. Although the state struggled with severe drought early in the summer, only about 1% of the state was still in that high state of drought by the end of monsoon season.