James Greiff
Bloomberg View
April 11, 2014

Drought in the U.S., past and present, might make 2014 one of the more volatile years for food prices and supplies globally. U.S. consumers may get a preview of what’s coming at the salad bar.

The main culprit is the parched land of California’s Central Valley, which grows a large share of U.S. vegetables, fruits and nuts. Conditions are so dry that some farmers aren’t even bothering to plant. That might have even bigger implications for food prices than the 2012 drought that baked the Corn Belt, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said this week.

California has suffered a double hit: a dearth of rain in the lowlands and a lack of snow in the mountains in the north and east. Snowmelt provides water for many of the state’s farmers during the growing season and for the huge population centers in the south. Snow this year was only about 30 percent of the historical average. Even though the snow now is melting, some streams and rivers have so little water that wildlife crews have had to truck stranded salmon fingerlings downstream so they can make it out to sea.

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