US Drought Withers Corn and Soybean Crops

B.McPherson


This may be evidence of climate change or it may be a periodic disaster. Either way it hits the consumer and producer hard.
The US Mid-West is facing its worst drought in 56 years and it is having a major impact on the soybean and corn yields.  The American Mid-West is the world’s largest supplier of corn and a leading supplier of soybeans. Both have been hit hard by the lack of rain this summer.

Iowa has been the hardest hit of the states under extreme drought conditions. They share that unfortunate designation with Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. Currently 35 states have counties that have been declared disaster areas.

The corn and soybean futures have reached record high prices. The ripples from the failed crops will spread across N.America and also to the hungry in foreign countries. Corn and its processed products are found in much of the processed foods in the supermarkets. Corn is the principle food for feed lot cattle. The American chicken industry usually feeds corn to its poultry. Higher prices for animal feeds will push up the prices for eggs, chicken and beef.

To add to the farmers’ woes, the pastureland for cattle has dried up and cattlemen are having to buy hay to keep their dairy cattle producing and their beef cattle in shape for slaughter. It is expected that many farmers will be sending their animals to the slaughterhouses early to avoid having to feed expensive purchased food over the winter. So while beef prices may take a brief dip, they are expected to more than rebound as the surplus is taken up.

The American farmers are hoping that an updated Farm Bill before the House of Representatives will be passed to help them through this drought. It has been passed by the Senate but partisan politics in Congress have stalled it.

Besides the obvious crop failures from this year’s massive drought in the Bread Basket, there are other important consequences. The nation’s electrical supply generated by coal or nuclear stations requires massive amounts of water. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, 41% of the water used in the US is used for generating electricity. As the weather heats, more electricity is used to cool urban spaces and homes.

Wildlife is increasingly impacted as the supply of water dries up. Obviously animals require a steady source of water throughout the year, as do the plants that they live on. Massive fish kills have been reported as some of the remaining rivers have climbed to lethally hot temperatures for the aquatic life. Sturgeon are dying. In monetary terms the loss for sturgeon alone is about $10 million.

While many of us focus on oil and petroleum products, allowing Big Oil to dictate policies and politics, little attention is focussed on water. This is a water planet. We are primarily water. Water is life and without it, all the big SUVs and plastic bags will be useless.

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