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This Thanksgiving Staple Is Threatened by Drought

Love them or hate them, cranberries are on most Thanksgiving tables. But they might be harder to find around the holidays this year thanks to a widespread drought in Massachusetts, the second-largest producer of cranberries in the U.S.

Though all crops need water, cranberry fields need to be flooded twice a year: once in spring, and once in fall for harvesting. That makes them especially sensitive to drought, and makes periods of drought particularly expensive for the farmers, who have to run gas or propane pumps from local water sources to make up for the lack of rain. 


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As of Aug. 31, 10 of the 14 counties in Massachusetts were experiencing extreme drought, with the remaining four counties experiencing severe drought, according to the National Drought Mitigation Center. Though there has been some rainfall brought by storms in September that has reduced the amount of extreme drought, most of the state is still experiencing severe drought, and cranberry farmers still need more rain for a good harvest.

Luckily, the leader in cranberry production in the U.S., Wisconsin, is on track for a healthy crop this year, according to the Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association. Very little of the state is experiencing drought, and its farmers on are projected to produce 63% of the country's crop at 5.2 million barrels. For comparison, Massachusetts is expected to produce 1.89 million barrels. 

Many people won't miss cranberries at the Thanksgiving table — 24% of respondents to one survey hated cranberry sauce the most at Thanksgiving — but to traditionalists, a weak harvest may simply mean paying more. Considering the turkey shortage caused by the bird flu this year, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is shaping up to be more expensive than last year. 

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