Drought and our Corn Crop

Surely just about everyone is tired of reports about the drought throughout much of the U.S.  As the political campaign heats up, news of the drought slows down.  Politics are exciting.  The drought is not.  None of us will be without food this winter because of the loss of corn, soy beans or other agricultural products.  After all, our grocery stores and neighborhood markets have plenty of fresh, nearly-perfect corn for our summer picnics and barbecues.  Right?

I have been reading about the drought for some time, and have watched as the bushes, trees and grass in our neighborhood have gone dormant, or simply died.  When Terry and I were at  the car wash–of all places–we entered into a conversation with a crop insurance adjuster who gave us a real life view of what this all means.  He explained he was getting his car washed because he is working 15 to 18 hour days driving from farm to farm to identify the percentage of the corn crop already lost to the drought. He estimates that in his territory (the exact perimeters of which are unknown to me) farmers have lost an average of 75 % of their corn crop.  He worries the soy bean crop is next.  While his statistics are not unknown to others, it presented me with a testimonial that is far more compelling because it is based on this gentleman’s real life experience.

In addition to describing the statistics, he described that the farmers are plowing their crops under or harvesting their corn and soy bean crops as hay.  When we drove to the Ozarks Friday, proof of his observations concerning the plight of the farmers was all around us.  Fields of corn were brown, from Kansas City to Bagnell Dam.  All along our route, fields have been plowed under, leaving only strips of corn a couple of yards wide.  This is consistent with his explanation that farmers with crop insurance are required to preserve sufficient patches or strips of corn and soy beans to allow crop adjusters to evaluate the farmers’ losses?  It is a tragedy to behold.

In addition to the huge toll on the farmers, as a result of skyrocketing grain prices, livestock sales are at an all time level.  Some cattle ranchers are selling off their herds because they can’t afford to buy adequate corn to feed their cattle. As a result, meat will also become more expensive.

While some farmers on the coasts have bumper crops of corn, they may be the only beneficiaries of the drought.  Consumers throughout the country face significantly higher prices at the grocery store for all corn-based product, soy products and beef.

Those most seriously impacted by this drought are likely to be those in the poorest nations that are often the same nations that  constantly face famine or near famine.  While there are areas of the world where harvests are bountiful, overall, there will likely be significant reductions in food aid.  Record high prices for corn and other products as well as a lack surplus crops for export will hamper the efforts of government and charitable organizations that traditionally help those worldwide who face the greatest need.

The tragedy associated with this drought only begins to be felt here in the midwest in August. The long-term repercussions may be far more dramatic here and worldwide.

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The opinions in this post are not the opinions of our families, our friends or our employers

Springtown, Texas-Where country is, was and always will be “Cool”

This was a busy weekend for our family.  Meg was in Kansas City for a wedding (more to come), Laura and Michel were in Warsaw, Poland and Terry and I were in his hometown, visiting Christina and his family.

Springtown, Texas, has a population pushing toward 3300 people in the city limits and over 7000 in the metro area.  Terry’s family has lived here since about 1900, so his family roots are deep in the soil.  His parents were successful dairy farmers.  His parents, Finis and Vivian, seem to have been involved in nearly every organization in town. There is even a street named after them, it runs right in front of his family home, where his sister Mary now lives.

Situated just 1/2 hour from Fort Worth, it seems a world apart. It is easy to joke about rural Texas, where the names Poolville (ignore the “l” and soften the “v”), Hickey Hollar and Azle roll easily off the tongue. But residents of Springtown are anything but unsophisticated. Underestimate them at your peril.  This is cattle country.  Everything associated with cattle is important: birthing, feeding, watering and sale.

This is also natural gas country.  Everything associated with natural gas is also important: contracts, easements and the related challenge.  Heavy pipes are buried to move natural gas from Oklahoma and Texas for processing. Water for fracking ( the process of drilling and injecting water into the ground at high pressure to release natural gas) moves through small above ground pipes from Eagle Mountain Lake some 10 to 15 miles away to the gas fields in Springtown.  Storage tanks and sound baffles are a visual distraction. The dust and noise from the constant movement of heavy trucks to and from the construction sites fill the air.

Financial security is measured not only in natural gas and cattle, but in land. Ancient fence lines reflect property boundaries but are also important to the movement of cattle from grazing field to grazing field, separating cattle from horses, and sometimes separating garden plots from everything else.

For a city slicker like myself, it is easy to assume that farm life is “easier” than city life.  That is simply not true.  There is a combination of intelligence, hard work and back braking labor.  Farm tractors and trucks cost more than most automobiles and there are more of them!

At the end of the day the conversation includes all of things I would hear at any dinner table.  We talk about national and local politics.  But there is also discussion about feed prices, whether natural gas prices are up or down, whether there will be enough water to last the season.

But fear not, there is precious time for fun.  There is more than enough work to go around, but the food, hospitality and fun are worth the price of admission.

Oh, and did I forget to talk about the snake.  I was in the middle of the street, thinking that was safe from nature’s viler creatures, talking to Meg on my cell when suddenly I became aware that the black streak less than 6 feet from me, in the middle of the road was not tar, but a long motionless snake.  On telling my tale to Maurine and requesting assurance that it probably wasn’t dangerous, she just suggested that she tries really hard to stay away from snakes!

Have a great week.