In the 18 primary corn-growing states, 30 percent of the crop is now in poor or very poor condition. In addition, fully half of the nation’s pastures and ranges are in poor or very poor condition. The hot, dry conditions have also allowed for a dramatic increase in wildfire activity. During the past 3 weeks, the year-to-date acreage burned by wildfires increased from 1.1 million to 3.1 million acres.
From abnormally dry to moderate, to severe, extreme, and exceptional drought conditions, the colored areas on the following U.S. map from the National Drought Mitigation Center in Lincoln, Nebraska, confirm that the majority of the land mass is suffering from drought conditions. All color shaded areas except yellow are technically ‘drought’ while yellow represents ‘abnormally dry’.
CNN just reported today that the Department of Agriculture said 1,016 counties in 26 states are now natural disaster areas due to drought conditions. 61% of land in the lower 48 states are experiencing drought conditions.
Dave Miller, director of research and commodity services at the Iowa Farm Bureau said that corn prices have climbed 45% already; soybeans, 22%. “In the short run, that doesn’t show up in the grocery store,” he said, since most of this corn is used as livestock feed. In fact, he said, meat prices could fall at first if farmers slaughter more animals to decrease the cost of buying feed.
But eventually, Americans will pay more at the checkout counter. “It’s likely that in three to six months from now, you will start seeing an increase in prices in the meat case,” Miller said. “There will be a quicker impact on eggs and poultry because the production cycle is shorter.” And even milk could see 4% to 6% price hikes if there are reductions in dairy herds. Many farmers are now waiting until the fall of 2013 before they can hope for a full harvest.
Water is a precious commodity. When I see the evidence of continuing drought or abnormally dry conditions across such a large area, and the fact that it is restricting or inhibiting food production, it reinforces the enormous benefit to having a source of water on one’s own property (assuming it hasn’t dried up). A well, a spring, a stream, provide relief from 100% dependency on rainfall or municipal water supplies and their potential restrictions.
In the meant time, all we can do is recognize the value of fresh water in our ecosystem and hope for more rain while we pay more for food…
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