Monday, August 16, 2010

The latest on the effects of the Russian crop disaster

Went driving in the Minnesota countryside southwest of Minneapolis yesterday.  The corn and soybeans are just unbelievable.  The soybeans after a couple of pitiful seasons are so full and lush they look like hedgerows.  The corn is about 9 ft. tall and so dense, good luck seeing the ground.

Remember now, these are plants that have been bred to minimize the supporting plant so the maximum plant energy is channeled into the seeds.  I won't predict a giant harvest just yet but barring some weather-related disaster like hail, it looks like some farmers will be buying new equipment this fall.
Wheat is the new gold in time of plenty for America’s breadbasket
As fires wreck Russia's harvests and poor countries brace for shortages, it's boom time for Kansas farmers.  Strong wheat yields in Kansas and Colorado this year have been boosted by the crop trading for $7 a bushel on futures markets.
By David Usborne
Saturday, 14 August 2010
Wildfires, floods, crippling droughts, and even a threatened plague of locusts have wrecked crops and ruined harvests around the world, raising fears of global food inflation shortage and food riots.
But as they hose off the dust and chaff caked on their exhausted combine harvesters,farmers in America's plain states are adjusting to something possibly wonderful: a combination of unusually good wheat yields and suddenly soaring prices – thanks to disastrous circumstances elsewhere – has put them at the centre of a gold rush.
"It feels like Christmas in August," admitted Darrell Hanavan, of the Colorado Wheat Administrative Committee, noting that the harvest just completed in his state seems to have been the most bountiful for 25 years. More importantly, the dollar value for the crop is almost sure to set a record.
The thin soil of the plains is not always so kind. Scorching drought and relentless rains are frequent visitors to the breadbasket of America. So it is startling for some to find themselves singled out for good fortune, while the rest of the US combats an unemployment rate that refuses to come down. more 
Russian ban on grain exports comes into force   
Russia has begun a ban on the export of grain until the end of this year in a bid to keep the domestic market supplied and put a lid on prices after a record drought caused a massive loss of wheat crops. 
By News Wires (text) 
AFP - A ban on Russian grain exports ordered by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came into force on Sunday, with the government battling to keep down prices of basic foodstuffs amid a record drought. 
According to a government decree signed by Putin on August 5, the ban will extend from August 15 up until December 31, although the powerful premier has indicated it may even extend beyond that date if the harvest is bad. 
Russia, the world's number three wheat exporter last year, has already warned that its grain harvest this year will be just 60-65 million tonnes, compared to 97 million tonnes in 2009. 
The drought amid the worst ever heatwave in Russia's history has ruined one quarter of the country's crops, according to President Dmitry Medvedev. 
The export ban is aimed at keeping the Russian domestic market well supplied with grain to prevent sharp rises in prices. Russia's leaders, acutely nervous of social unrest, will be keen to avoid any discontent over food prices. 
"We must not allow an increase in domestic prices and must preserve the headcount of our cattle," Putin said bluntly as he announced the ban. more 
Russia ban on grain export begins

15 August 2010 Last updated at 03:01 ET 
Russia's crops have been devastated by the heatwave
Russia has imposed a ban on grain exports until the end of the year, after a severe drought and a spate of wildfires devastated crops.
Russia is one of the world's biggest producers of wheat, barley and rye, and the ban is likely to see bread prices rise in places like the Middle East.
The measures are designed to keep domestic food prices under control.But agriculture ministry data has revealed that this year's crop is unlikely to meet even domestic demand.
Nuclear facility
However, dozens of wildfires are still burning around Moscow, and according to the Emergency Situations Ministry more than 500 wildfires are continuing to burn across the country.
These include a new blaze to the east of the major nuclear research facility in Sarov, about 400km (250 miles) east of Moscow.
Earlier this month, as fires raged near the site, all nuclear and explosive materials were removed as a precaution.When those fires were brought under control, the materials were returned to Sarov. more
And a look at the crazy jet stream that caused both the fires in Russian and the floods in Pakistan.
And with all the haste we showed in opening the second front in World War II, here comes a trickle of American aid now that some of these fires have simply burned themselves out.

First planeloads of US aid to combat wildfires arrive in Moscow
The first planeloads of US logistical support for beating back widespread Russian wildfires arrived at Moscow airport early on Saturday as officials said the fires had shrunk to roughly a quarter of the size they were a week ago.
By News Wires (text)
AFP - The first planeloads of US aid for the Russian wildfire tragedy arrived in Moscow on Saturday as officials said a fire raging close to a top nuclear facility did not risk causing an atomic catastrophe.
Officials said that nationwide the area alight with fires was almost a quarter that of a week ago, although there appeared to be little progress in reducing the size of the blaze close to Russia's main nuclear research centre in Sarov.  
Two US Air Force C-130 planes carrying aid for Russia touched down early Saturday at a Moscow airport, followed by a charter flight from California ordered by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, state television and the foreign ministry said.
Two additional C-130 flights were expected in the "next days", the Russian foreign ministry said. Another charter was also due in the coming week. more 
And the Germans are NOT too crazy about how the Russians handled this disaster.

The Kremlin's Smokescreen
By Christian Neef
As the Russian wildfires continue to burn, the Kremlin's spin machine is in high gear, as the government attempts to cover up the true scale of the disaster. The country's leadership duo, Dmitry Medvedev and Vladimir Putin, have been using the same PR stunts and propaganda gimmicks they have relied on in the past.
A burnt field outside Shatura: 
Russia's ban on grain exports came into effect Sunday. 
The drought and wildfires devastated this year's crop.
It sounded like a huge finale when a heavy thunderstorm came crashing down on Moscow in the early hours of last Friday. But it was too early to celebrate the end of Russia's wildfire disaster. After scorching the region for exactly two months, with daytime temperatures of over 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), on Friday morning the heatwave continued. The suffering will go on, at least for this week.
A total of 505 existing wildfire hotspots were still blazing on Friday. While the Emergency Situations Ministry was already announcing that the fires were being brought under control, the heat had sparked new fires at 245 new locations. To make matters worse, it is primarily in areas contaminated with radioactivity that firefighters still have to battle the flames.
It was only last week that the government admitted that fires have been burning since mid-June in the very districts that were contaminated with radionuclides following the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986. Although there is no danger that the fires will again cause a plume of radioactive fallout to extend as far as Western Europe, there is a significant risk for local residents. But so far the authorities have refused to answer the question of whether additional areas were contaminated with the dangerous radioactive isotope, caesium-137. One environmentalist said that he suspects they are keeping quiet because they fear that even more claimants would otherwise be entitled to compensation payments from the state. more

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