Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Unintended (Thoughtless) Consequences
In 1990 Washington State produced 100 million pounds of asparagus off 30,000 acres. The asparagus was shipped locally and through distributors around the country. For those of my age, asparagus was a seasonal delight. In the late spring we looked forward to the thick, tender stalks. In 1991, as part of the War on Drugs, a new law exempted certain crops, including asparagus, from tariffs. The idea was that the Andean countries would plant asparagus as an alternative to drug crops. The War on Drugs has produced violence, mayhem and destruction, and not eased the traffic noticeably. An unintended casualty was the domestic asparagus industry. In 2010, the Washington State asparagus harvest was a mere 17 million pounds. The California acreage has declined by a third. We have raised a generation who think fresh asparagus is pencil thin and dry. Today farmers are hopeful again. There are new varieties, and strong prices. This year they expect to plant 6,000 acres. South American crops still flood the market. Maybe enough people will remember the taste of truly fresh asparagus, and 7,000 acres will go in next year.