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

To rain or not to rain, that is the question

It is dry, oh so dry.  The impact of this drought is the subject of a future post.  But the question of the moment is whether there will be rain today.  The weather forecast gives us hope that there will be relief from the 105 degree temperatures for at least a few days.  We are also given the promise of rain, precious rain.

Late yesterday afternoon I felt a single drop of rain.  On my drive home I saw a splash or two.  By 8 p.m. I was excited to see a real cloud.  The gray of a rain cloud was fighting against the fluffy white cloud which normally would have seemed lovely and delicate.  Now the dark of the rain cloud holds  our attention.

There were a few more drops and nothing more.  What does today hold?  Precious rain or dry heat?  That is the question.

Water, Water every where, Nor any drop to drink

In the Rime of the Ancient Mariner[1] , the narrator describes the lack of drinkable water while sailing on an ocean of salt water. 

The lack of available safe, drinkable water can result from many causes: drought, when there simply is no available water; polluted water resulting from toxic waste and agricultural pesticides; water polluted as a result of inadequate treatment of sewage from human and animal waste and water that is too salty to drink.    

 

Here in the Midwest, water surrounds us.  We have lakes, rivers and streams. We swim in it, bathe in it, freely water our lawns and gardens with it, and simply admire it.  But we are lucky.

Even in parts of the U.S., water is precious.  But while water it California and other western states can be expensive, it is still available.  In agricultural areas, particularly in areas of Texas, ponds may have plentiful water in the spring but dry by late summer.  

In times of drought, the lack of water can ruin a crop or cause ranchers to sell off portions of their herds.  Even then, safe water is almost universally available in the United States for human consumption.   

 World-wide, there is a different story.  Roughly 10% to 11% of the world’s population, between 783 million to 1 billion people, does not have access to safe water[2].  In the developing world, 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into rivers[3].  1.4 million children die every year as a result of diseases caused by unclean water and poor sanitation.  This amounts to around 4,000 deaths a day[4].  The death rate from lack of safe water is greater than the death rate from war.  The lack of water, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa also results in crop failures, frequent famines and also a significant factor in the loss of life of humans and animals.

 In The World is Hot, Flat and Crowded, Thomas Freidman quotes Michael J. Sandel, a political philosopher at Harvard that: “’We have a responsibility to preserve the earth’s resources and natural wonders in and of themselves’ because they constitute the very web of life on which all living creatures on this planet depend.” 

 Clean water is not a partisan issue.  It is not an issue that appeals only to those who are “left leaning” or “right leaning”.  It is a human issue.  We can clean water, dig wells to make it accessible, install pipes and faucets to move it around and make it easy to control the flow and movement of water.  Most of all, we can care about the people for whom the availability of water is a life–and death–challenge.

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Our opinions, are our opinions alone, and do not represent the opinions of our employers, our friends, our relatives, our husbands, or even each other.   


[1] Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, published in 1798

[2] WHO/UNICEF, WaterAid, Water.Org.

[3] UN

[4] WHO