Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The corn belt drought

This Friday, I have scheduled a road trip to the closest drought area (probably NE Iowa or SW Wisconsin) from my house.  We have had reasonably good rain and the locally grown corn on the cob was excellent.  But I have been assured that the disaster is not far from here.  I'll write more when I have some pictures.  In the meantime, this is what the Guardian has to say about our drought.

Food price crisis feared as erratic weather wreaks havoc on crops

'What the world economy really needs right now is a break', one economist says, but instead it appears headed toward upheaval, Sunday 22 July 2012

Freak weather in some of the world's vital food producing regions is ravaging crops and threatening another global food crisis like the price shocks that unleashed social and political unrest in 2008 and 2010.

As the US suffers the worst drought in more than 50 years, analysts are warning that rising food prices could hit the world's poorest countries, leading to shortages and social upheaval.

The situation has sparked comparisons to 2008 when high food prices sparked a wave of riots in 30 countries across the world, from Haiti to Bangladesh.

Researchers say rising food prices also helped trigger the Arab Spring in 2011.

Nick Higgins, commodity analyst at Rabobank, said: "Food riots are a real risk at this point. Wheat prices aren't up at the level they got to in 2008 but they are still very high and that will have an effect on those who are least able to pay higher prices for food."

In America's agricultural heartland, searing heat and sparse rainfall have left farmers helpless as their corn and soy bean crops wither in dry fields. Earlier this month, the US department of agriculture (USDA) slashed forecasts for the corn crop by 12%.

US agricultural secretary Tom Vilsack said: "I get on my knees every day, and I'm saying an extra prayer right now. If I had a rain prayer or a rain dance I could do, I would do it."
As it is, current weather forecasts suggest the drought will continue and experts fear the USDA may have to cut its targets again in August.

Dan Basse, president of AgResources in Chicago, said the government's prediction would prove too optimistic if the drought continues. "We've been traipsing through the fields of southern Illinois, and it is worse than the government says." more


  1. I can assure you this is shaping up to be a huge disaster. The corn crop is already lost here in Central Illinois (some of the most productive corn land in the world), and the soybean crop is also well on the way to being lost, unless there is immediate rain. If you want a flavor for what the markets are saying about this, I'd suggest listening to the farm reports produced by WILL, the University of Illinois NPR Affiliate, the commodity week report is especially useful, if depressing.

    1. You are invited to write about this from central Illinois—which is shaping up to be ground zero for this. Email me. We need to discuss the possible outcomes of this catastrophe—there is probably nothing more disruptive to the real economy than a serious crop failure, after all.

      We are looking at weather forecasts—getting rain does not demonstrate drought. Wouldn't it be ironic if the drought broke with torrential rain that floods out whatever survived this far?