Effects of the drought
|A Christian County (KY) cornfield at Memorial Day|
The price of corn has been kept high in recent years by the production of corn ethanol. Also, China and other densely populated countries buy corn to help feed the masses, thus driving up corn prices further. Apparently excited by high corn prices. one of our neighbors harvested his wheat this spring before it looked ready and quickly planted corn in the stubble, (Then he accidentally burned the little corn plants with fertilizer -- which was probably both frustrating and embarrassing.)
We had a dryer-than-usual winter and spring in 2012, but if we had received a few generous rains in June, we could still have had a good corn crop. Even our neighbor's fertilizer-burned corn was looking pretty good. But we had an exceptionally hot June (day after day of 100° or more) with just a few sprinkles of rain. By the beginning of July, when the corn in Christian County should have been growing big, full ears, many fields were already dying from the drought.
|USDA image for week of July 28, 2012|
When we have a corn crop failure in Christian County, it takes millions of bushels of corn out of the market. We grew almost 11 million bushels of corn in 2011, but the crop this year will be much less than that. And the drought extends across most of the U.S. -- in fact, many areas are dryer than Christian County. The entire harvest of food in the United States this year is going to be a lot smaller.
|A very dry pasture in the Missouri Ozarks, July 2012|
Some agricultural experts are urging the U.S. to lower its requirements (quotas) for ethanol production so that more corn will be available for food worldwide. Russia is also experiencing a drought.
The federal government is offering some emergency assistance to Kentucky farmers in drought stricken areas. Low interest emergency loans are available. Conservation Reserve Program lands may be used for hay or pasture with some restrictions and conditions. Crop insurance providers have been asked to voluntarily offer farmers an extra month before charging interest on the unpaid portion of crop insurance premiums.
The Climate Prediction Center sees little rain in the near future for Kentucky. The drought is expected to continue through October.