“Knee high by the Fourth of July” is what New England farmers want their corn crop to be. In the Middle West this year the corn is wilting and drying out instead of growing this month. The heat sweeping across America this summer is stunting or killing the crops of the world’s most important corn-producing region. NYT:
Across a wide stretch of the Midwest, sweltering temperatures and a lack of rain are threatening what had been expected to be the nation’s largest corn crop in generations.Already, some farmers in Illinois and Missouri have given up on parched and stunted fields, mowing them over. National experts say parts of five corn-growing states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, are experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions. And in at least nine states, conditions in one-fifth to one-half of cornfields have been deemed poor or very poor, federal authorities reported this week, a notable shift from the high expectations of just a month ago.
The only thing farmers can do is hope and wait, and look to the horizon for clouds. Some farmland, like in Minnesota and western Iowa, has seen milder weather. But if it continues, the midwest’s hot, hot weather—over 110 degrees Fahrenheit in some places—could turn what was going to be the biggest corn harvest on record into a major disappointment.A bad harvest could affect the presidential election; the Farm Belt states have been among the best performers during the economic recession. President Obama wants Iowa farmers in particular to be in a good mood when they troop to the polls; we shall see.This is bad news for more than just U.S. farmers, consumers and politicians. For too many people around the world today, the price of food is the single biggest factor determining their standard of living. Middle Eastern countries in particular are vulnerable to price shocks in the world food supply. After three months of declines, world food prices are already rising on the news of the Midwest heat wave and what it’s doing to the American harvest.