(NaturalNews) As I've been living in Austin, Texas, for a while, I thought I would report on the Texas drought situation first hand. How bad is the drought situation here? It's critically bad, actually. Even the wildlife are facing starvation and dying of thirst. I saw some wild pigs the other night (they're quite common throughout Texas), and they looked like they were barely surviving in a state of near-starvation.
My neighbors tell me to shoot the poor creatures out of sheer mercy, but I still don't have the heart to pull the trigger on a wild pig. I do hear rifle shots every few days, however, so somebody else is quite literally bringing home the bacon while probably easing the starvation burden on those wild pigs that are somehow still alive. Overpopulation of wild animals, it turns out, sometimes has its own consequences in terms of animal suffering.
Why drought causes beef prices to plummet
In talking to local ranchers, I've learned that the beef processing facilities have been backlogged for weeks due to the fact that ranchers can't keep their cattle fed, so they're having them slaughtered instead. This has the short-term effect of thrusting beef prices into alarmingly low territory, and it's also decimating the cattle population across Texas. If this drought continues, many Texas cattle herds could be down to just twenty percent of their normal size. And even those remaining cattle aren't looking well fed these days. Most ranchers can't even afford to bring in the hay, either, because fuel prices make hay transportation extremely expensive. You can't spend $100 a week feeding a cow that, right now, fetches less than $1,000 at the auction.
Although cattle prices are extremely low right now, this is all going to drive the price of Texas cattle into the stratosphere over the next 1-2 years. One rancher even told me he thought a head of cattle might reach $3,000 in the medium term. Ultimately, this means huge increases in beef prices over the next several years, at least if that beef comes from Texas cows.
Many factory-farmed cows begin their life in Texas (and end it in Colorado)
Now, you might think most of the beef sold in America comes from places like Greeley, Colorado, and that's true in a way. But the cows that get sent to those factory-farmed feedlots are first birthed and grown in places like Texas. Only after the cows are 18 months old or so are they shipped off to places like Greeley where they're fed GMO corn (!) and fattened up for slaughter. This is all one more reason to buy local free-range beef, by the way, if you consume beef.
Beyond the cattle issue, there's also the issue of rainwater and agricultural techniques. The skinny in the organic agriculture movement is that the conventional, pesticide-based, GMO-contaminated agricultural methods that have been practiced in Texas (and taught by Texas A&M, which is considered the "evil" empire by organic farmers in Texas) have quite literally altered the climate in Texas and turned fertile soils into drought-ridden arid lands.
There's a lot of truth to that: When you clear-cut forests to make room for cattle grazing, you drastically reduce the water capturing and retention potential of the land. Across Texas over the last hundred years or so, countless millions of acres of forests have been either cut down to pure pasture or thinned to about one tree per acre, causing a predictable loss of top soils and turning what used to be moist forests into dry prairie lands.
What Texas needs now more than ever is a mass reforestation effort that reenergized the water retention capacity of the land. Of course, the professors at Texas A&M don't seem to understand this, anymore than a conventional medical doctor understands holistic nutrition. For too long, agriculture and cattle ranching has been conducted in a rape and pillage type of operation, and now Texas is seeing the inevitable results of those actions.
How to help Texas farming and ranching recover
The good news is that Texas farmers and ranchers are, by and large, very smart and capable folks. The level of interest in organic agriculture across Texas is skyrocketing, and drought conditions have motivated many farmers and ranchers to look more seriously at water conservation, reforestation, rainwater collection and efficient irrigation techniques. In fact, I would say that Texas farmers and ranchers are the most practical and capable people I've ever met, and when they learn about a better way to do something, they're very quick to take on those improvements and test them in the field.
This drought, in fact, has renewed interest in the following solutions, all of which desperately need to be investigated and field-tested across Texas and other states such as Oklahoma:
• Rainwater harvesting - Yes, it's expensive, and you need a large roof to gather the rain in the first place, but when combined with drip irrigation systems, rainwater can provide a significant source of "free" water that also happens to be the perfect pH for gardening, showering or drinking.
• Permaculture instead of agriculture - Permaculture is a system of growing plants that respects the natural, holistic interactions found in nature. It involves understanding the role of water, insects and trees (including dead trees, which serve as habitat for many animals). While permaculture takes more effort to get set up, it offers an abundance of long-term harvests for many years in the future. Permaculture is, you might say, the opposite of monoculture which focuses on the use of pesticides and GMOs to sterilize the soil, kill the bugs and produce contaminated food.
• Improved irrigation technologies - Gone are the days of spraying water into the air and hoping some of it lands on your crops. Today's farmers are increasingly using precision water delivery systems to drip water right where it needs to go, effectively using half as much water to produce the same amount of food or forage.
• Surface water retention - All across Texas as the ponds (called "tanks" in Texas talk) have run dry, those ranchers who can afford to are expanding their tanks to hold more water in the future. Some are adding extra layers of clay lining to their tanks to minimize seepage. Of course, even the largest tanks are almost universally dry right now, thanks to months without rain, but as they are engineered to hold more water, they are made more resistant to future drought.
In combination, these techniques can help Texas farmers and ranchers restore their herds, increase crop yields and protect themselves from future droughts. And that's a huge concern across Texas these days, where there is now open talk that climate change (not necessarily from carbon dioxide, but from the jet stream currents that largely determine rainfall in Texas) is upon us and Texas may become more desert-like for a while.
On the other hand, folks in Texas tell me, "Every Texas drought ends with a catastrophic flood," so we may soon find ourselves drenched in more water than we know what to do with.
That would be a nice change, surprisingly. Nearly everyone in Texas would welcome a catastrophic flood at this point. I've never seen so many people pray for a hurricane. Yes, the drought is really that bad. Somehow, though, the golf courses keep pumping water onto their manicured lawns. If there was ever a sign of the insanity of modern civilization, it's got to be the water-saturated green golf courses in Arizona, Texas and other semi-arid or desert climates. Somehow, whacking white balls on green grass has taken precedence over protecting the water remaining in North American aquifers.
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