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COLUMN: It’s not dry lawns we should be worrying about

If there is an upside to the drought we are currently experiencing, it is that lawn mowing is almost a forgotten activity

If there is an upside to the drought we are currently experiencing, it is that lawn mowing is almost a forgotten activity, necessary now only to knock down the infernal weeds that seemingly grow out of nothing.

However, the lack of grass growth has far wider consequences to our pocketbooks in the form of ultimately higher food prices.

Normally farmers in the Fraser Valley are on their second cut of hay, with at least one or two more expected before the cool and wet of fall puts the balers to bed. Not this year, from what I have seen.

Similarly, across the Valley, the vast swaths of cow corn ground up each year as silage for cattle feed are suffering from lack of rain.

Without access to sprinklers and irrigation ditches, fields containing cole crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, sprouts will see them wilt and die.

And unless we have a wet August, current weather conditions will translate into higher prices at the grocery store.

Already, beef prices some 70 per cent over last year are affecting people’s barbecue time, which right now is thrilling ranchers, but the dry conditions are also foretelling tough times ahead. Without adequate quantities of hay to overwinter the cows who produce the calves that eventually grace our plates, ranchers will have to reduce their herds, further exacerbating the rising cost of beef.

A number of years ago when the Cariboo suffered a similar drought, the hay shortage was so acute, a rancher friend of mine made the difficult and expensive choice to ship two-thirds of his herd, some 250 cows, to Alberta for the winter. I’m sure that knocked the crap out of his profitability for quite some time.

While I’m not certain of the hay potential up-country this year, I can imagine it is similar to then, except this year Alberta is also facing drought, and an equivalent dearth of hay and grain supplies. This means being unable to feed the cows. They will be shipped for slaughter, resulting next year in beef shortages and thus even higher consumer prices. Meanwhile, ranchers face the possibility of economic collapse.

Yet the potential for food shortages and higher costs are not so much of a concern for residents of Sumas Mountain as is the potential for wildfire.

I live in what’s described as forest interface. We have thousands of acres of timber and bush lands that are tinder dry on this mountain, yet on the Crown land above us it is open season for dirt bikes and ATVs, for parties and overnight campers.

A failed spark arrestor on a bike’s exhaust, a discarded bottle, a tossed cigarette, a hot catalytic converter of a car parked on dry grass, and we face a massive conflagration – at a time when virtually all resources for forest firefighting are tasked elsewhere.

Should we have a stiff east wind like we had last weekend, a wildfire started on a remote part of the mountain is capable of sweeping all the way into Abbotsford’s eastern urban area.

Even disregarding the possibility of a human-caused fire, the prospect of a lightning strike between now and the onset of our normally rainy conditions, at least here on Sumas Mountain, put thoughts of an apocalyptic summer way ahead of lawn mowing and higher food prices.