Dust Bowl Texas: Drought’s Impact on Christmas Trees, Grapes, and Quail

The drought leaves nothing untouched. This week the ongoing drought impacts the state’s Christmas tree production, grapes, quail, and peanut butter sandwiches.
Tue November 29, 2011 5:00 am
Flickr | IRRI Images

With the persistent drought arguably second only to Rick Perry ’s presidential campaign as the state ’s biggest issue, we take a look at the latest drought-related headlines.

O CHRISTMAS TREE 
The drought claimed thousands of Christmas trees around Texas and Oklahoma, the Associated Press reported over the weekend. To deal with their losses, many farmers plan on importing firs from North Carolina growers. “Possibly most painful for these growers are the deaths of the youngest saplings, which guarantee the drought’s effect will be felt for years to come,” the article stated. David and Karen Barfield, of New Caney, estimate they will only sell 100 trees this year, down from 400 in greener years. Larry Seward, a reporter with KHOU News 11 , visited Manvel to chronicle the drought’s impact on tree farms there, and Austin’s YNN News got in on the sad Christmas tree action, filing a story from Evergreen Farms in Elgin.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE BOBWHITES GONE?
Thanksgiving used to mean quail hunting for some 250,000 Texans, but those days have gone the way of the quail. The population of bobwhite quail in Texas has shrunk roughly 75 percent over the past thirty years, and the recent stretch of drought has pushed them to the edge, according to the Houston Chronicle . “This drought is a game changer. It has complicated the problems and really brings home the challenges facing quail,” Robert Perez of Texas Parks and Wildlife Department told the Chronicle.

WITHERING ON THE VINE
The drought has halved the haul of Texas grape growers, Betsy Blaney of the Associated Press reported. Blaney ventured out to Lubbock to see the drought’s impact on one of the state’s 400 vineyards. The drought caused each vine to have fewer grapes and for those grapes to be smaller. There was an upside, however: the smaller grapes were tastier. “The winemakers are just giggly about the quality,” grape grower Neal Newsome told Blaney. “That's the only silver lining of this year’s crop. The quality is something we’ll talk about for years.” 

THE DROUGHT IS AFTER YOUR PBJ
Peanut butter prices are edging up across the country, thanks to the drought. Peanut crops are also down fifty percent, according to Odessa’s CBS7 News . USA Today reported that peanut butter prices have jumped some thirty percent, alarming food banks. Hot weather in Georgia and farmers switching to more profitable crops also contributed to the price increase.

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