Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Drought Devastates U.S. Corn Crop, Spikes Worldwide Food Prices

Climate

EcoWatch

This summer, many parts of the U.S. are in the grips of an unrelenting record heat wave exacerbating drought conditions throughout most of the nation. Yesterday, a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) detailed the significant effects drought is having on corn production.

The U.S. Drought Monitor, a joint publication of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is currently reporting that large areas of the Midwest and Great Plains regions, which are substantial corn-producing areas, are experiencing significant drought conditions. Analyzing Drought Monitor data, the USDA's Agricultural Weather and Drought Update for Aug. 16 reported that 85 percent of the U.S. corn crop is located within a drought area, with nearly half of the crop area experiencing extreme or exceptional drought levels, their most severe designations. The map below illustrates the location of U.S. drought areas superimposed on major and minor corn-growing areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Initially, the USDA predicted this year would see the largest corn harvest in history. However, due to the extreme drought conditions in the corn belt some estimate that the actual yield of the U.S. corn crop will be as much as 30 percent lower than was initially forecast.

Though 98 percent of the U.S. corn crop is not consumed directly by humans, but is instead used for animal feed, ethanol production and other industrial uses, a huge amount of is consumed indirectly worldwide through beef, pork, poultry and dairy consumption. The U.S. corn crop accounts for 40 percent of the global harvest and an increase in the price of U.S. corn will be felt with an increase in food prices worldwide. These effects will especially be felt by poor people worldwide who subsist mostly on grain and eat little animal protein or dairy, because an upward spike in corn prices also leads to an increase in the price of the other "great grains" including rice and wheat.

Fear that higher food prices worldwide will lead to greater global political instability has led many to call for an end to U.S. government mandated policy that 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop must be diverted to ethanol production. Mandates to use corn as fuel heighten rises in food prices. The World Bank blamed expanded biofuels production as being one of the main causes of the global food crisis of 2008.

Most climate change experts predict that we are in for a future of more and more severe drought which will in turn lead to higher and higher food prices. What's more, according to a recent scientific study the severe drought conditions themselves inhibit carbon uptake, thereby worsening climate change, a vicious cycle. The five year drought from 2000 to 2004 in Western North America, the worst of its kind in 800 years, inhibited carbon uptake, contributing to global warming conditions, but scientists say that that may turn out to be among the wetter time periods compared to the climate of the recent of the 21st century.

A National Wildlife Federation report this week detailed the many ways in which climate change made its presence felt during this record hot summer. In addition to problems such as disease outbreaks and devastating wildfires, one of the main problems associated with climate change is drought. Some of the most dramatic effects of drought have been felt in the global food system.

Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pexels

By Daniel Yetman

Bleach and vinegar are common household cleaners used to disinfect surfaces, cut through grime, and get rid of stains. Even though many people have both these cleaners in their homes, mixing them together is potentially dangerous and should be avoided.

Read More Show Less
During a protest action on May 30 in North Rhine-Westphalia, Datteln in front of the site of the Datteln 4 coal-fired power plant, Greenpeace activists projected the lettering: "Climate crisis - Made in Germany" onto the cooling tower. Guido Kirchner / picture alliance / Getty Images

Around 500 climate activists on Saturday gathered outside the new Datteln 4 coal power plant in Germany's Ruhr region, to protest against its opening.

Read More Show Less
Dr. Mark Brunswick (2R), Vice President of Regulatory Affairs and Quality, walks through the lab at Sorrento Therapeutics in San Diego, California on May 22. ARIANA DREHSLER / AFP / Getty Images

By Julia Ries

Around the world, there have been several cases of people recovering from COVID-19 only to later test positive again and appear to have another infection.

Read More Show Less

By Samantha Hepburn

In the expansion of its iron ore mine in Western Pilbara, Rio Tinto blasted the Juukan Gorge 1 and 2 — Aboriginal rock shelters dating back 46,000 years. These sites had deep historical and cultural significance.

Read More Show Less
Meadow Lake wind farm in Indiana. Anthony / CC BY-ND 2.0

By Tara Lohan

The first official tallies are in: Coronavirus-related shutdowns helped slash daily global emissions of carbon dioxide by 14 percent in April. But the drop won't last, and experts estimate that annual emissions of the greenhouse gas are likely to fall only about 7 percent this year.

Read More Show Less
Andrey Nikitin / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Adrienne Santos-Longhurst

Plants are awesome. They brighten up your space and give you a living thing you can talk to when there are no humans in sight.

Turns out, having enough of the right plants can also add moisture (aka humidify) indoor air, which can have a ton of health benefits.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
Read More Show Less