Wednesday, August 1, 2012


What comes to mind when you hear the word drought? Something that happens to someone else? Outdoor water use restrictions? Visiting folks in WI, it really hits home just what a drought really is.

It's corn that's not even 3 feet tall already brown and withered away, long before it ever ripened for harvesting. It's a priest exhorting his congregation to pray for rain, for the farmers in the community and for the general well-being of the town.

Talking to my wife's uncle, who is an honest-to-goodness farmer, things are bad. He knows folks who rent farmland, $300 per acre per year, due at harvest time, who will have no crops to show for the money they've spent so far. Worse yet, they've paid for the seed and the fertilizer for crops that didn't make it to harvest, so they're even further in the hole.

And, of course, there's the specter of what it means for the rest of us should the drought continue: Higher food prices and shortages are almost certain as crops don't make it to harvest; not only food on our plates but food that goes to feed livestock is no longer available as it once was.

Naturally, the finger pointing begins in earnest, with some blaming global warming and others blaming farm subsidies. It's human nature to want to assign blame for this; you can't score political points on Mother Nature, but you can on evil corporations that a) pollute the environment; b) run small independent farms out of business; or c) contribute to politicians with the wrong letter in parenthesis after their name.

But the real people who are hurting now are the farmers; folks who are working their fingers to the bone just to barely break even - and in many cases not even doing that. This year may be one for the record books, with uniformly small crop yields and attendant fallout. There's talk that food animals may be culled early in anticipation of significantly higher prices; stock up now if prices decline due to overabundance of stock.

And in any case, keep the farmers of America in your thoughts - and think of rain.

That is all.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


eiaftinfo said...

Iowa is right there with the folks in Wisconsin. I am competely surrounded by farm ground - all in corn - liiking pretty much the way you described your family's place. This will hit the whole food chain - from milk to steak.

A friend is a dairy farmer. It's been so hot that even with fans and misters he's had a half-dozen cows simply lay down and die.

My neightor's son's got a bug about feed cattle - Wayne just rolled his eyes. So the boy's bought about 50 head. They will probably do ok, but this year they will have no spare corn or hay to sell.

And there is nothing coming - period. Low 90s, no rain - nothing.

Of course the good thing for the politicians food and fuel are not part of the CPI - "all items less food and energy" - so inflation still looks low.

It's going to hurt though, yep, it's going to hurt . . . .

Safe travels home sir!


Joe Texan said...

Let's not forget that we're right on schedule to convert enough corn to feed 415 million people to ethanol this year, thanks to the EPA. Not only can we have higher food prices, we get to have worse gas mileage, too!

Chris Byrne said...

Not that I BLAME farm subsidies in general...

But honeslty, there's something that no-one wants to admit, no-one wants to say, and no-one wants to ehar in this country....

We have too many damn farmers. By far. Probably by more than half.

In particular we have too many grain farmers. In even greater particular, we have far too many corn and wheat farmers.

We have a natural market for corn and wheat that would support... something like half... of the farmers that we have now.

All of those people who are only making money because of subsidies; we really don't need them growing corn or wheat.

Either they need to grow something else, or they need to sell their land and stop being farmers.

Even the argument that it "keeps our food prices low" is false; because it actually keeps them higher. If there were no subsidies, the market would find its natural level of supply, demand, and price; and the resources inefficiently allocated to subsidized crops would simply be allocated elsewhere.

We have romanticized the idea of the "family farmer" in this country for far too long. The fact is, it is no longer economically viable, nor is it necessary, for many of these people to be farmers.

Bubblehead Les. said...

It's worse than you think. Just found a news story that says 50% of the Counties/Parishes in the U.S. now Qualify for Disaster Aid for the Farmers and the Ranchers. Not good.

lee n. field said...

Qualify for Disaster Aid for the Farmers and the Ranchers.

Like there's going to be the money for that.

Around here, some of the corn superficially looks OK. Still green. But if you look closer, the unshucked ears are very small -- nothing much in them.

Larry said...

Here in NC we are expecting a bumper crop...but we have more acres in tobacco than corn. I've overheard some of the tobacco farmers say they wish they had planted corn instead this year.
Last year it was floods. Next year might be tornadoes. It's all part of living in the Midwest.