The Corn Is Dying All Over America

All over America the corn is dying.  If drought conditions persist in the middle part of the country, wheat and soybeans will be next.  Weeks of intense heat combined with extraordinarily dry conditions have brought many U.S. corn farmers to the brink of total disaster.  If there is not significant rainfall soon, many farmers will be financially ruined.  This period of time is particularly important for corn because this is when pollination is supposed to happen.  But the unprecedented heat and the extremely dry conditions are playing havoc with that process.  With each passing day things get even worse.  We have seen the price of a bushel of corn soar 41 percent since June 14th.  That is an astounding rise.  You may not eat much corn directly, but it is important to realize that corn or corn syrup is just about in everything these days.  Just look at your food labels.  In the United States today, approximately 75 percent of all processed foods contain corn.  So a huge rise in the price of corn is going to be felt all over the supermarket.  Corn is also widely used to feed livestock, and if this crisis continues we are going to see a significant rise in meat and dairy prices as well.  Food prices in America have already been rising at a steady pace, and so this is definitely not welcome news.

The weather conditions in the middle part of the country during the last couple of months have been highly unusual.  The following is from a recent article in the Los Angeles Times….

It’s not that the Midwest hasn’t been extremely hot before, and it’s not that it hasn’t been incredibly dry.

But it’s unusual for a vast swath of the Midwest to be so very hot and so very dry for so very long — particularly this early in the summer.

The current heat wave — which is spurring comparisons to the catastrophic heat of 1936 —  is “out of whack,” meteorologist Jim Keeney said Friday in an interview with the Los Angeles Times.

Corn crops typically pollinate and mature in June and early July.  That is why this time of the year is so vitally important for corn.  We have reached a make it or break it moment.

The following is how an Accuweather.com report described what is happening right now….

Either heat or drought can stress the stalks, but both can basically shut down the pollination process. When this happens few, small or no ears of corn form.

According to AccuWeather.com Agricultural Meteorologists, you can’t raise a corn crop with less than an inch of rain over six weeks, combined with 100-degree and higher temperatures. However, these conditions have taken place in much of the southern corn belt through the week of July 4, 2012.

If pollination does not happen, corn farmers might as well give up.

Just check out what agricultural economist Chris Hurt said the other day….

“Pollination problems just can’t be overcome, even if the weather turns. There’s no turning back. There’s just failure.”

At this point, half of all corn in the state of Indiana is already in poor shape.

With each passing day, the condition of the corn gets even worse.

As a recent article in the Chicago Tribune detailed, many farmers feel completely helpless at the moment….

Dave Kestel, who farms about 1,300 acres in Manhattan about 40 miles southwest of Chicago, said he feels helpless.

“Every day you get out there and it’s the same heat and cloudless sky,” he said. “You see your corn just withering out there, knowing you can’t do anything about it.”

The United States is suffering from a severe lack of rain.  Just look at the chart posted below.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of the country is experiencing drought conditions right now….

These drought conditions have also played a major role in the huge number of wildfires that we have seen lately.

There are a few northern states that are not feeling the drought right now, but otherwise the rest of the country is extremely dry.

So what does all of this mean for you and I?

A recent article by Holly Deyo summarized why we should all be praying for rain….

Since 75% of grocery store products use corn as a key ingredient, expect food prices to skyrocket. Corn is also a staple in many fast foods. Corn is in ethanol and the main food source or chickens. In addition to this, maize is in many things that aren’t obvious like adhesives, aluminum, aspirin, clothing starch, cosmetics, cough syrup, dry cell batteries, envelopes, fiberglass insulation, gelatin capsules, ink, insecticides, paint, penicillin, powders, rugs and carpets, stamps, talcum, toothpaste, wallpaper, and vitamins. That’s just for starters…

This is a huge heads up for you to purchase corn-using products NOW before these conditions reflect in grocery goods. It will be a narrow window of opportunity.

These thoughts are being echoed by many agricultural economists as well.  According to Businessweek, the outlook for U.S. food prices is bleak….

“When people look at rising prices for hamburger, butter, eggs and other protein sources from higher corn costs, that’s when more money ends up in the food basket,” said Minneapolis- based Michael Swanson, a senior agricultural economist at Wells Fargo & Co., the biggest U.S. farm lender. “We were hoping for a break, and we aren’t going to get it.”

Unfortunately, the fact that the corn is dying all over America is not just a problem for the United States.

As Businessweek also recently noted, the fate of U.S. corn affects the entire globe….

When rain doesn’t fall in Iowa, it’s not just Des Moines that starts fretting. Food buyers from Addis Ababa to Beijing all are touched by the fate of the corn crop in the U.S., the world’s breadbasket in an era when crop shortages mean riots.

This year they have reason to be concerned. Stockpiles of corn in the U.S. tumbled 48 percent between March and June, the biggest drop since 1996, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said last week. And that was before drought hit the Midwest.

The United States is the world’s biggest exporter of corn by far, and if there is a massive corn crop failure in America it is going to be felt to the four corners of the earth.

Just check out what Abdolreza Abbassian, a senior economist with the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization, said the other day….

“Everyone watches the U.S. because they can rely on it. Without it, the world would starve.”

Back in February, I wrote an article that suggested that we could see dust bowl conditions return to the middle part of this country in the years ahead.

A lot of people were skeptical of that article.

Not quite as many people are skeptical today.

The following is from a recent article posted on MSNBC entitled “Fears of new Dust Bowl as heat, drought shrivel corn in Midwest“….

Crop insurance agents and agricultural economists are watching closely, a few comparing the situation with the devastating drought of 1988, when corn yields shriveled significantly, while some farmers have begun alluding, unhappily, to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. Far more is at stake in the coming pivotal days: with the brief, delicate phase of pollination imminent in many states, miles and miles of corn will rise or fall on whether rain soon appears and temperatures moderate.

As I wrote about last week, if the weather does not turn around soon the implications are going to be staggering.

Even if we got some significant rainfall at this point a tremendous amount of damage has already been done according to the Washington Post….

Jay Armstrong, owner and operator of Armstong Farms in Kansas, flew his small plane over a portion of the affected area and landed with the impression that the potential damage is far worse than is commonly understood.

“At this time of year, when you look down in a place like Indiana or Illinois, you should see just lush green fields,” Armstrong said. “I saw bare soil. I just thought to myself, the market has no idea what’s coming.”

So is there significant rain in the forecast?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

The National Weather Service says that the corn belt will experience “above-normal temperatures” and “below-normal rainfall” over the next week.

At this point it does not look like there will be any significant rainfall for the foreseeable future….

“We got a break in the temperatures over the weekend but no rain of significance is in sight for next seven days,” said Jim Keeney, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service the US central region based in Kansas City, Missouri.

Needless to say, that is really bad news.

Right now we just have more heat and more dryness to look forward to.  The skies are like iron and the earth is like brass.  We like to think that we have conquered nature, but at moments such as these we see that is not true at all.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about all of the reasons why we should be concerned about the second half of 2012.  In that article I did not even mention drought and crop failures.  Sometimes major problems have a way of piling on top of themselves.

The U.S. economy is already in bad enough shape without adding major crop failures to the mix.  This is something that we just don’t need right now.

But it looks like we are going to have to deal with it.  Unless there is a major change in the weather, food prices are going to go up even more and large numbers of farmers and ranchers are going to be absolutely devastated.

Let us all pray for rain.  We desperately need it.

20 Signs That Dust Bowl Conditions Will Soon Return To The Heartland Of America

For decades, the heartland of America has been the breadbasket of the world.  Unfortunately, those days will shortly come to an end.  The central United States is rapidly drying up and dust bowl conditions will soon return.  There are a couple of major reasons for this.  Number one, the Ogallala Aquifer is being depleted at an astounding pace.  The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the entire world, and water from it currently irrigates more than 15 million acres of crops.  When that water is gone we will be in a world of hurt.  Secondly, drought conditions have become the “new normal” in many areas of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and other states in the middle part of the country.  Scientists tell us that the wet conditions that we enjoyed for several decades after World War II were actually the exception to the rule and that most of time time the interior west is incredibly dry.  They also tell us that when dust bowl conditions return to the area, they might stay with us a lot longer than a decade like they did during the 1930s.  Unfortunately, without water you cannot grow food, and with global food supplies as tight as they are right now we cannot afford to have a significant decrease in agricultural production.  But it is not just the central United States that is experiencing the early stages of a major water crisis.  Already many other areas around the nation are rapidly developing their own water problems.  As supplies of fresh water get tighter and tighter, some really tough decisions are going to have to be made.  Fresh water is absolutely essential to life, and it is going to become increasingly precious in the years ahead.

Most Americans have never even heard of the Ogallala Aquifer, but the truth is that it is one of the most important bodies of water on the globe.  It covers well over 100,000 square miles and it sits underneath the states of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and South Dakota.

Water drawn from the Ogallala Aquifer is used to water more than 15 million acres of crops.  Without this source of water, the United States would not be the breadbasket of the world.

That is why what is happening right now is so alarming.

The following are 20 signs that dust bowl conditions will soon return to the heartland of America….

#1 The Ogallala Aquifer is being drained at a rate of approximately 800 gallons per minute.

#2 According to the U.S. Geological Survey, since 1940 “a volume equivalent to two-thirds of the water in Lake Erie” has been permanently lost from the Ogallala Aquifer.

#3 Decades ago, the Ogallala Aquifer had an average depth of approximately 240 feet, but today the average depth is just 80 feet.  In some areas of Texas, the water is gone completely.

#4 Scientists are warning that nothing can be done to stop the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer.  The ominous words of David Brauer of the Ogallala Research Service should alarm us all….

“Our goal now is to engineer a soft landing. That’s all we can do.”

#5 According to a recent National Geographic article, the average depletion rate of the Ogallala Aquifer is picking up speed….

Even more worrisome, the draining of the High Plains water account has picked up speed. The average annual depletion rate between 2000 and 2007 was more than twice that during the previous fifty years. The depletion is most severe in the southern portion of the aquifer, especially in Texas, where the water table beneath sizeable areas has dropped 100-150 feet; in smaller pockets, it has dropped more than 150 feet.

#6 According to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. interior west is now the driest that it has been in 500 years.

#7 It seems like the middle part of the United States experiences a major drought almost every single year now.  Last year, “the drought of 2011” virtually brought Texas agriculture to a standstill.  More than 80 percent of the state of Texas experienced “exceptional drought” conditions at some point, and it was estimated that about 30 percent of the wheat fields in Texas were lost.  Agricultural losses from the drought were estimated to be $3 billion in the state of Texas alone.

#8 Wildfires have burned millions of acres of vegetation in the central part of the United States in recent years.  For example, wildfires burned an astounding 3.6 million acres in the state of Texas alone during 2011.  This helps set the stage for huge dust storms in the future.

#9 Texas is not the only state that has been experiencing extremely dry conditions.  Oklahoma only got about 30 percent of the rainfall that it normally gets last summer.

#10 In some areas of the southwest United States we are already seeing huge dust storms come rolling through major cities.  You can view video of a giant dust storm rolling through Phoenix, Arizona right here.

#11 Unfortunately, scientists tell us that it would be normal for dust bowl conditions to persist in parts of North America for decades.  The following is from an article in the Vancouver Sun….

But University of Regina paleoclimatologist Jeannine-Marie St. Jacques says that decade-long drought is nowhere near as bad as it can get.

St. Jacques and her colleagues have been studying tree ring data and, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Vancouver over the weekend, she explained the reality of droughts.

“What we’re seeing in the climate records is these megadroughts, and they don’t last a decade—they last 20 years, 30 years, maybe 60 years, and they’ll be semi-continental in expanse,” she told the Regina Leader-Post by phone from Vancouver.

“So it’s like what we saw in the Dirty Thirties, but imagine the Dirty Thirties going on for 30 years. That’s what scares those of us who are in the community studying this data pool.”

#12 Experts tell us that U.S. water bills are likely to soar in the coming years.  It is being projected that repairing and expanding our decaying drinking water infrastructure will cost more than one trillion dollars over the next 25 years, and as a result our water bills will likely approximately triple over that time period.

#13 Right now, the United States uses approximately 148 trillion gallons of fresh water a year, and there is no way that is sustainable in the long run.

#14 According to a U.S. government report, 36 states are already facing water shortages or will be facing water shortages within the next few years.

#15 Lake Mead supplies about 85 percent of the water to Las Vegas, and since 1998 the level of water in Lake Mead has dropped by about 5.6 trillion gallons.

#16 A federal judge has ruled that the state of Georgia has very few legal rights to Lake Lanier, and since Lake Lanier is the main water source for the city of Atlanta that presents quite a problem.

#17 It has been estimated that the state of California only has a 20 year supply of fresh water left.

#18 It has been estimated that the state of New Mexico only has a 10 year supply of fresh water left.

#19 Approximately 40 percent of all rivers in the United States and approximately 46 percent of all lakes in the United States have become so polluted that they are are no longer fit for human use.

#20 Eight states in the Great Lakes region have signed a pact banning the export of water from the Great Lakes to outsiders – even to other U.S. states.

Unfortunately, it is not just the United States that is facing a shortage of fresh water in the near future.  The reality is that most of the rest of the world is in far worse shape than we are.  Just consider the following stats….

-According to the United Nations, the world is going to need at least 30 percent more fresh water by the year 2030.

-Global demand for fresh water tripled during the last century, and is now increasing faster than ever before.

-According to USAID, one-third of the people on earth will be facing severe or chronic water shortages by the year 2025.

-Of the 60 million people added to the cities of the world each year, the vast majority of them live in deeply impoverished areas that have no sanitation facilities whatsoever.

-It has been estimated that 75 percent of all surface water in India has been heavily contaminated by human or agricultural waste.

-Sadly, according to one UN study on sanitation, far more people in India have access to a cell phone than to a toilet.

-Every 8 seconds, somewhere in the world a child dies from drinking dirty water.

Due to a lack of water, Saudi Arabia has given up on trying to grow wheat and will be 100 percent dependent on wheat imports by the year 2016.

-Each year in northern China, the water table drops by an average of about one meter due to severe drought and overpumping, and the size of the desert increases by an area equivalent to the state of Rhode Island.

-In China, 80 percent of the major rivers have become so horribly polluted that they do not support any aquatic life at all at this point.

-In sub-Saharan Africa, drought has become a way of life.  Collectively, the women of South Africa walk the equivalent of the distance to the moon and back 16 times a day just to get water.

It has been said that “water is the new gold”, and unfortunately we are getting close to a time when that may actually be true.

Without water, none of us could survive for long.  Just try not using water for anything for 12 hours some time.  It is a lot harder than you may think.

We can’t grow our food in a pile of dust.  Unfortunately, many areas of the heartland of America are slowly but surely heading in that direction.

History tells us that it is only a matter of time before dust bowl conditions return to the central United States.  We have used irrigation and other technologies to delay the inevitable, but in the end it cannot be stopped.

Let us hope that the return of dust bowl conditions can be put off for as long as possible, but let us also prepare diligently for the worst.

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