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Flint’s lead-poisoned water had a ‘horrifyingly large’ effect on fetal deaths, study finds

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Flint resident LaFonzo Williams, 19, prays on Jan. 14, 2016, in Lansing, Mich., amid more than 150 Flint and Detroit resident before heading into the state Capitol to protest Gov. Rick Snyder, asking for his resignation and arrest in relation to Flint’s water crisis. (Jake May/Flint Journal-MLive.com via Associated Press)

The fertility rate in Flint, Mich., dropped precipitously after the city decided to switch to lead-poisoned Flint River water in 2014, according to a new working paper.

That decline was primarily driven by what the authors call a “culling of the least healthy fetuses” resulting in a “horrifyingly large” increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages. The paper estimates that among the  babies conceived from November 2013 through March 2015, “between 198 and 276 more children would have been born had Flint not enacted the switch in water,” write health economists Daniel Grossman of West Virginia University and David Slusky of Kansas University.

In April 2014, Flint decided to draw its public water supply from the Flint River, a temporary measure intended to save costs while the city worked on a permanent pipeline project to Lake Huron. Residents immediately began complaining about the odor and appearance of the water, but well into 2015 the city was still assuring residents that the water was safe to drink.

Subsequent testing by Flint authorities and outside agencies turned up lead levels that in some cases were dozens or hundreds times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety threshold. A September 2015 study showed that the proportion of Flint children with high lead levels in their blood had roughly doubled after the water change. The city finally switched back to Lake Huron water in October  2015.

The harmful effects of lead exposure on children’s health are well-documented. They include cognitive deficiencies, increased antisocial behavior, lower educational attainment, and a host of problems affecting the brain, kidneys and liver.

Less well-known are lead’s effects on fetal health. Literature reviewed by Grossman and Slusky shows that maternal lead exposure is linked to “fetal death, prenatal growth abnormalities, reduced gestational period, and reduced birth weight.” A 2013 study, for instance, found an increase in fetal deaths and a reduction of births in Washington, D.C., from 2000 to 2003, when lead levels were elevated in the city’s drinking water.

Grossman and Slusky wanted to know if something similar happened in Flint after lead-poisoned water was introduced in 2014. They compared birth and fetal death rates in Flint with those in other Michigan cities, including Lansing, Grand Rapids, Dearborn and Detroit.

“These areas provide a natural control group for Flint in that they are economically similar areas and, with the exception of the change in water supply, followed similar trends in fertility and birth outcomes over this time period,” the authors say.

What they found, as displayed in the graph below, was “a substantial decrease in fertility rates in Flint for births conceived around October 2013, which persisted through the end of 2015. Flint switched its water source in April 2014, meaning these births would have been exposed to this new water for a substantial period in utero (i.e., at least one trimester).”

Other cities in Michigan showed no such drop.

During this time period, residents in Flint were generally unaware of the amount of lead in their water. “Because the higher lead content of the new water supply was unknown at the time, this decrease in [the general fertility rate] is likely a reflection of an increase in fetal deaths and miscarriages and not a behavior change in sexual behavior related to conception like contraceptive use,” Grossman and Slusky conclude.

They next turned to deaths of fetuses of 20 weeks gestation and older, excluding abortions, which are reported by hospitals. They found that “fetal death rates increased in Flint but did not change substantially in other areas following the water change.” The change in Flint amounted to a 58 percent increase in fetal deaths, relative to areas not afflicted by lead-poisoned water, a change the authors characterized as “horrifyingly large.”

The authors say their number probably undercounts the total number of miscarriages and fetal deaths for several reasons: "(1) They do not include abortions; (2) they do not include miscarriages that occur before 20 weeks of gestation; and (3) they are restricted to hospitals reporting these events,” Grossman and Slusky said.

The paper’s findings on fertility and fetal death rates largely mirror the effects observed in Washington, D.C., from 2000 to 2003. And the authors note that many effects probably fall outside the scope of the current research: The children born during this period were subsequently exposed to lead outside of the womb as well, potentially setting themselves up for a host of physical and behavioral problems later in life.

Flint is currently working on overhauling its water infrastructure, a process that local authorities say is likely to take years. At the end of 2016, 10 percent of Flint homes still had lead concentrations of 12 parts per billion or higher in their water, three times the level observed in Detroit.

Although the EPA threshold for safe drinking water is 15 parts of lead per billion, according to the World Health Organization “there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.”

Flint, according to 2016 Census estimates, is 53 percent African American. In addition, 45 percent of Flint’s residents live in poverty, and census data released last week showed that it is the nation’s poorest city.

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How poor, decaying Gary, Indiana is fighting to win Amazon’s heart

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An empty house in Gary, Indiana. (Photo by Jim Young/Reuters)

Karen Freeman-Wilson knows her city is in trouble.

About a third of people in Gary, Ind. live in poverty. A fifth of buildings are vacant or abandoned. Potholes and trash mar the streets — the budget has little room for regular upkeep.

So, Freeman-Wilson, who grew up here and became the city’s first female mayor five years ago, penned an open letter to a man she believes could help revive Gary: Jeffrey P. Bezos, chief executive of Amazon.com.

Bezos had recently announced he was looking for a place to open the technology giant’s second headquarters — a move the company says would bring up to 50,000 jobs that pay an average annual salary of $100,000.

Freeman-Wilson thought: Why not Gary?

She appealed to Bezos in the voice of her city, spending nearly $10,000 to publish the words as an advertisement this week in the New York Times.

“I know locating to me may seem far-fetched,” she wrote. “But far-fetched is what we do in America. It was far-fetched for 13 scrawny American colonies to succeed against the might of the British Empire.”

Amazon, based in Seattle, says it plans to pour $5 billion into building and running the new location, to be named Amazon HQ2.

“We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters,” Bezos said in a statement. “Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs.” (Bezos also owns The Washington Post.)

The company is collecting proposals from government leaders — Chicago, Boston, Austin and New York City are already lining up — and says it wants to break ground in an area with a university, more than a million people and easy access to an international airport.

Freeman-Wilson argued Gary has all these things. The city’s population is about 76,000, but it’s 30 miles from Chicago, she said, and is close to Indiana University and Purdue University commuter campuses.

“But the best part of me are my people —resilient, eager to work,” she wrote.

Gary, Ind. Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, center, outside the Justice Department in Washington after a meeting in April. (Photo by Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press)

Four decades ago, Gary flourished as a steel town.

U.S. Steel employed about 30,000 residents. Practically anyone who wanted a job could find one, Freeman-Wilson said. Gary had neatly painted houses with sturdy fences and healthy lawns. The city was full of young families (including Michael Jackson’s.)

Then came automation and foreign competition. The steel mill gradually slashed its workforce to roughly 3,000. The population shrank by 100,000.

One robot could do the work of 10 men, a former steelworker at the Gary plant recently told The Guardian. And some buyers turned to cheaper Chinese steel.

“People are leaving,” Freeman-Wilson told the Post of Gary’s decline. “You have an increase in crime, because people can’t find jobs and revert to bad ideas. You can’t fix the buildings because you don’t have the tax base, and the city crumbles.”

The city has had to dismiss about three-quarters of its maintenance workers, she said, because it can’t afford to pay them.

Still, she doesn’t blame trade or neglectful politicians for what happened to Gary. Though President Trump largely claimed the Rust Belt during the election, the city in a red state stayed reliably blue.

“You know what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket,” Freeman-Wilson wrote in her letter to Bezos. “I rode the big wave during the industrial revolution but I took a big fall once that wave ended.”

Her strategy now is not to just win Amazon’s business. The city is also working to attract more manufacturing and logistics firms. Indiana’s unemployment rate sits at a tight 3.6 percent, below the national rate, but Gary’s is at 6 percent — meaning: There’s more workers available for jobs. A trucking company, she said, just broke ground for its headquarters in Gary.

Amazon would be a big prize. Gary is working with state and regional economic development experts on an offer that will include tax credits and other discounts. (Indianapolis is also competing, and the proposals are due next month.)

“We have been through challenges and bottomed out,” she said, “and now we are rebuilding.”

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Lawrence Summers: The Cassidy-Graham vote is a chance for a Republican to be a hero

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The U.S. Capitol building (Marlon Correa/The Washington Post)

There is an opportunity for one or two Republican Senators to be 21st century Profiles in Courage. A senator who stands up to his or her party and casts the decisive vote against the Cassidy-Graham health legislation will be seen by history as a hero.

Cassidy-Graham is the cruelest and most misguided piece of consequential legislation proposed so far in the 21st century. It is far worse than the “repeal and replace” bills that Congress has so far voted down. Cassidy-Graham is much more dangerous than previous bills both because it goes further in eliminating critical parts of the Affordable Care Act and because it savages the pre-ACA Medicaid safety net.

Start with what Cassidy-Graham does to the ACA, which established the landmark principle that health insurers could not discriminate against sick people or those with preexisting conditions. This idea was endorsed even by President Trump and preserved in earlier legislation. Cassidy-Graham restores the ability of private insurers to exclude people with preexisting conditions. It also knocks out the entirely reasonable provisions of the ACA requiring that insurance cover mental health, substance abuse treatment and maternity. And it eliminates the funding that went to expand coverage under the ACA through Medicaid expansion and tax credits, instead providing a block grant to states that is insufficient to replace it before ending altogether in 2026.


[Under Cassidy-Graham, health-care spending would drop in all but 16 states. Fifteen voted for Trump.]

Maybe even worse than what Cassidy-Graham does to the ACA is what it does to the underlying Medicaid program. Rather than maintain the federal guarantee to fund a share of Medicaid costs currently in place, the bill would convert the Medicaid program to a “per-capita cap” — with cuts that grow deeper over time. One consulting firm, Avalere, estimated that the cuts to Medicaid outside of the ACA would be over $1 trillion by 2036. That would inevitably require states to make deep cuts to coverage and services for the seniors in long-term care, people with disabilities, and families with children who use the program.

I don’t understand how those supporting Cassidy-Graham live with themselves. People will die and they will be responsible. And what will follow ultimately after the backlash comes will make the ACA look like a libertarian dream. If ever there was a moment for a courageous Republican to step up, this is it.

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The new Republican plan to repeal Obamacare is the worst one yet

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Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has co-sponsored the latest plan to repeal Obamacare (Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Republicans have come up with an innovative, new plan to repeal Obamacare.

Instead of cutting health-care spending for the poor and letting insurance companies once again discriminate against the sick in the name of personal freedom, they want to cut health-care spending for the poor and let insurance companies once again discriminate against the sick in the name of state freedom.

Like I said, it’s innovative.

Now, there are two things you need to know about this last-ditch effort to eliminate Obamacare.

The first is that Republicans only have until September 30 to do so. That’s when their ability to pass a health-care bill with just 50 votes in the Senate instead of the 60 it takes to beat a filibuster will turn into a legislative pumpkin, assuming that they want to preserve this power for their tax cuts later on (which, it goes without saying, they do).

And the second is that this latest plan, which they’ve settled on by default since they’ve already voted down all their others, might actually go further to cut health-care spending than their previous ones. We can’t say for sure, though, because the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office won’t have time to conduct a full analysis beforehand.

So what do we know?

Well, the big picture is this plan, co-sponsored by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), would take all the money Obamacare currently spends on subsidizing health insurance and expanding Medicaid, and give some of it back to the states directly. This is what is known as a “block grant.” But there are a couple of key differences here.

The first is that this money would come with far fewer strings attached than it does under Obamacare. States, for example, could go back to letting insurance companies charge sick people more — good luck affording coverage if you have a preexisting condition like diabetes, or depression, or … acne? — or de facto do so by selling skimpy plans to healthy people and more expensive ones to everybody else. Not to mention that they wouldn’t be required to use this money to help cover people like they are now. If they wanted to, they could put this money toward things like paying providers or keeping out-of-pocket costs down — worthwhile goals, but not ones that would give insurance to somebody who doesn’t have it.

The second difference is who would get the money. Cassidy is worried it’s “not fair” that "37 percent of the revenue from the Affordable Care Act goes to Americans in” the “four states” of California, New York, Massachusetts, and Maryland. And he has a point — just not for the reason he thinks. The important thing to understand is that these states get so much of the spending not only because they have a lot of people, but also because they have a lot of people on Medicaid after they accepted Obamacare’s expansion of the program. This would be a much smaller share of the total, though, if Texas and Florida had done the same. But they didn’t, and neither did a lot of Republican-controlled states.

Poor people in red states, then, really are getting left behind by a system that, thanks to the Supreme Court, allows their governors to decide to leave them behind.

But rather than try to get these states to accept the mostly-free money the federal government has been dangling in front of them, Republicans have an alternative approach. To rectify the injustice of, say, Idaho’s government deciding not to expand Medicaid like Illinois, Republicans would simply take money from Illinois to give to Idaho. No, really. Cassidy-Graham wouldn’t give states the same amount of money in block grants that they got from Obamacare, but would rather divvy the whole pot up based on a fairly esoteric formula that would benefit rural states and ones that didn’t expand Medicaid at the expense of urban states and ones that did.

California and New York would, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, be the biggest losers under this redistributive scheme, while Texas and Georgia would come out the most ahead.

The third difference is how much money there’d be at all. It turns out that the block grants wouldn’t just move money from blue to red states. They’d also cut how much money there was in the first place.

Indeed, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that, in 2020, Graham-Cassidy’s block grants would start out $26 billion smaller than what states would have gotten from Obamacare, and would then grow so slowly that by 2026 they’d be $83 billion smaller. But that 34 percent cut in 2026 is nothing compared to what would happen in 2027: a 100 percent cut. Yes, that’s right. The block grants would disappear entirely in 10 years. Sure, Congress might renew them at that point, but it really might not. That’d still be a lot of money to come up with — money that Republicans would much rather use on, say, tax cuts.

The final difference is what it would do with Medicaid. That’s nothing less than a fundamental transformation of it. Like previous Republican plans, you see, it would turn Medicaid from an open-ended program that grows as need does to one that’s capped on a per capita basis and only grows according to inflation — and a particularly low rate of it, at that. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that this, together with an end to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion for the working poor, would result in Medicaid spending being 26 percent lower in ten years, and 35 percent lower in 20 years.

None of this is really new, of course.

Cutting Medicaid for the poor, health insurance subsidies for the middle class, and protections for the sick is what almost every Republican plan would do. What’s different about Cassidy-Graham, though, is just how disruptive it would make this. That’s because it wouldn’t keep any of Obamacare’s structures in place, not even watered down versions, like other Republican plans would.

Instead, it would force individual states to set up their own health-care programs, give them a lot less money to do so than they’re getting now, and, to top it off, force them to plan for the possibility of losing it all ten years from now. They would ostensibly be doing this out of fealty to federalism — what could be better than letting states could decide for themselves if they want to make insurance unaffordable for sick people? — but this freedom to not cover as many people isn’t one that a lot of governors want. Even Republicans John Kasich of Ohio, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, and Charles Baker of Massachusetts have come out against it.

After all, you can’t cut this much health-care spending without costing tens of millions of people their coverage. We won’t know if that’d be something like 20 million or 30 million until the CBO has time to run the numbers, but we know those are probably in the ballpark.

Meet the new Trumpcare, same as the old Trumpcare.

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Happy Equinox! Here’s how quickly the days are getting shorter where you live.

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This photo of sunset over the southern part of the Atlantic Ocean was taken from the International Space Station. (Johnson Space Center/NASA)

Sept. 21 marks the fall equinox, ushering in the year’s best season on a day that lasts almost exactly 12 hours no matter where you are on the globe.

Many of us in the Northern Hemisphere start noticing the days get shorter right about now, although in truth this has been happening for months — ever since June 21, the year’s longest day.

But for most of us, the speed at which the daylight is dying is faster now than at any other time of the year. Check out the chart below, which plots the length of daylight versus the months of the year for Washington. I’ve adapted it from a nifty tool created by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln’s astronomy department.

Plotted over a year (in this case, from March to March), the length of daylight looks like one of our old friends from trigonometry class — the sine curve. It peaks on June 21 — when daylight hours are longest — and bottoms out on Dec. 21.

The height and depth of the curve vary by a location’s latitude — how far north it is. In places close to the equator, such as Quito, Ecuador, the curve essentially flattens out to a straight line because days last roughly 12 hours all year long. Farther north in places such as Juneau, Alaska, the curve gets very steep — days are extremely long in the summer and extremely short in the winter.

Even farther north — above the Arctic Circle, in towns such as Barrow, Alaska — the curve gets blown out completely. The sun never sets for part of the summer, and it never rises in the depths of winter.

One cool thing to note about this chart: the lines all converge around Sept. 21 and March 21 — the fall and spring equinoxes, respectively. On those days, every place on earth gets the exact same amount of sunlight, because as NASA explains, “At an equinox, the Earth’s terminator — the dividing line between day and night — becomes vertical and connects the north and south poles.”

This is all caused by the earth’s 23.5-degree tilt as it rotates the sun. The effect of that angle on earth is vividly illustrated in this video, which uses a time lapse of satellite imagery to illustrate how the line between day and night falls across the planet over the course of a year.

The daily change in the amount of daylight differs dramatically by latitude at this time of year. On the equator, as you might suspect, the rate of change is essentially zero — the day will be about 12 hours long today, and 12 hours long tomorrow, too. But as you trek north up the globe, that rate changes.

Miami, for instance, is losing about 112 minutes of daylight now, every single day. Washington’s losing 212 minutes. Where I live in Red Lake Falls, Minn., we’re losing nearly 312 minutes of light each day.

As you go by the Arctic Circle, the change in daylight becomes extreme. Barrow, Alaska, is losing nearly 10 minutes a day. In the now-abandoned settlement of Etah, Greenland, the daylight is dying at a rate of more than 15 minutes a day. Winter is coming.

Want to know how short your day is getting? Figure out your latitude and see where it falls on the black line on that chart.

For the Southern Hemisphere, you’d essentially reverse this chart — head south away from the equator and the days are getting longer by these amounts.

Again, this all goes back to axial tilt — without that 23.5-degree offset we’d have no seasons. The weird thing about this tilt is that it changes slightly over 40,000-year periods, varying between 22.1 and 24.5 degrees. Our current tilt is somewhere in the middle of that range and headed toward the low end of it, which scientists believe will make the difference between the seasons feel somewhat less extreme — if we’re still around to notice it.

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In sign of U.S. economy’s strength, Fed to start reducing $4.5 trillion balance sheet

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Federal Reserve Chair Janet L. Yellen speaks in Washington in June 2017. The Fed wrapped up a two-day meeting of top U.S. economic policymakers on Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File).

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday that the U.S. economy is strong enough for the central bank to begin reducing its $4.5 trillion balance sheet in October, gradually unwinding a massive stimulus program started after the economy entered a severe recession nearly a decade ago.

The Fed will scale back its holdings by $10 billion in October and raise that amount gradually in the months to come. After the 2008 financial crisis and ensuing recession, the Fed took the unprecedented step of beefing up its holdings of government bonds and mortgage-related securities from $900 billion to $4.5 trillion in an effort to turn the economy around.

The U.S. economy keeps getting better, according to the central bank. Consumers continue to spend, and business investment is “picking up,” the Fed said. It now projects even faster growth this year of 2.4 percent, an increase from it forecast of 2.1 percent earlier this year.

“Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria have devastated many communities … but past experience suggests that the storms are unlikely to materially alter the course of the national economy,” the Fed said in a statement Wednesday.

The Fed did not change interest rates, which remain in a range of 1 to 1.25 percent, but the central bank says it still thinks growth will be strong enough to merit another rate hike by the end of the year and three more in 2018 to bring rates above 2 percent.

In a welcome sign for anyone looking for a job, the Fed also expects American companies to keep hiring and unemployment to fall further to 4.1 percent next year. The Fed believes inflation will remain below the bank’s 2 percent target until 2019.

 

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Hurricane Irma may speed the end of orange juice, America’s biggest source of ‘fruit’

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Large numbers of oranges sit on the ground at the Story Grove orange grove in the wake of Hurricane Irma on September 13, 2017 in Lake Wales, Florida.(Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)

Hurricane Irma plundered Florida’s orange belt, leaving a trail of uprooted trees, downed fruit and flooded groves worse than anything growers say they have seen in more than 20 years.

It could even be the knock-out blow for a product — orange juice — that has been slipping in popularity among Americans, although the beverage still ranks as the country’s favorite fruit.

The most recent estimates of the widespread damage to Florida’s orange trees put the statewide losses as high as 70 percent. That could lead to orange shortages, price hikes and, for farmers, lost harvests — all on top of a debilitating plant disease called citrus greening and a long-term national decline in orange juice consumption.

“Significant is not the right word,”said Shannon Shepp, the executive director of the growers’ group Florida Department of Citrus, describing the damage to Florida’s orange juice industry. “It’s somewhere between significant and catastrophic. And that’s a big word — I don’t use it lightly.”

It could have implications not only for Florida agriculture, but for the American diet.

Orange juice is big business, and Florida is its epicenter.

According to the Department of Agriculture, the average American drinks 23.74 pounds of orange juice per year — or roughly an ounce each day, more than any other fruit. (By comparison, most Americans eat 10.66 pounds of fresh apples per year, and a measly 2.7 pounds of fresh oranges.)

California and Texas also grow oranges, of course. But Florida is the source of most of the fruit that makes its way into orange juice. Ninety percent of the state’s $1 billion annual harvest  is eventually processed into OJ, according to the industry group Florida Citrus Mutual.

That’s no accident. As the food scholar Alissa Hamilton recounts in her book “Squeezed,” America’s love of orange juice was engineered in large part by the Florida citrus industry during the late 1940s — a project aimed at moving excess Florida oranges to other parts of the country.

In recent decades, however, that same industry has been beset by challenges, all of which have made Irma more difficult to bear.

While orange juice still holds the title of America’s most-consumed "fruit," demand has plummeted from its late ’90s peak — a development the citrus industry blames on changing lifestyles, such as a decline in sit-down breakfasts, and the proliferation of other beverage options at breakfast and throughout the day.  There’s also growing concerns around sugary beverages, including fruit juice, and a number of researchers and public health organizations have urged consumers to forego it.

Those are far from the industry’s only struggles. In 2005, a stubborn and debilitating disease called huanglongbing, or citrus greening, was discovered in Florida groves. The disease, which causes bitter and deformed fruits, has since reduced Florida orange and grapefruit revenues by $4.64 billion, according to Jacqueline Burns, the dean for research at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences. It’s also believed to have cost the state economy an estimated $1.76 billion in job losses.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the discovery of the disease coincided with one of the worst hurricane seasons Florida had previously seen. Hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne in 2004 slashed orange crops by a third. Growers suffered several more years of near record-low yields after that as injured trees and groves recovered.

Now, many fear the damage from Irma could be even worse.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen in my time in this industry — and I’ve been doing this since 1994,” Shepp said. “Growers were already in a bad situation. This was supposed to be their turnaround year. Then Irma happened.”

Shepp cautions that the full extent of Irma’s damage is not yet known, since many groves remain flooded and unripe oranges are still dropping from trees. But after conversations with dozens of growers and state and federal officials, she said estimates vary from as low as 30 percent losses in central Florida to as high as 100 percent in the south of the state.

The Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association is predicting the orange harvest will be down by 70 percent statewide, because of high winds that stripped unripe oranges from branches.

“Irma cut a swath right through the citrus belt,” said Lisa Lochridge, a spokesperson. “Based on the field reports we’ve gotten, there was not a grove in the state that was not affected.”

In a double-whammy to orange growers, dramatic storms can reduce demand for orange juice as well. Reduced yields often cause prices to climb — tellingly, orange juice futures spiked as Irma approached Florida — and that’s a turnoff for some consumers, said Tatiana Andreyeva, the director of Economic Initiatives at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

Andreyeva has found that a 10 percent increase in the price of juice causes a 7.6 percent decrease in sales.

“There was already a decline in demand for orange juice,” she said. “The hurricane will likely just make it worse.”

Shepp and Lochridge said their organizations have been meeting with state and federal officials in search of aid for growers. On Monday, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue conducted an aerial tour of damaged citrus groves, promising growers “generous,” “compassionate” and “quick” aid in response to the storm.

But  few believe Florida orange juice will ever return to its peak. Thousands of acres of Florida orange groves have already been sold to developers or converted to other crops, and USDA data suggests that the consistent decline in OJ consumption across multiple demographics is more than a short-term tendency.

Andreyeva cautions that, while the change may be painful for growers, it isn’t necessarily bad for public health.

“We don’t need to be consuming so much orange juice,” she said. “If this means consumers are replacing orange juice with water or milk — well, I think a lot of pediatricians and nutritions would be happy with that.”

Read more:

The worst things you can feed to your children

How much do Americans love french fries and ketchup? A lot more than you think.

Nation’s top nutrition panel: the American diet is killing us

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