By David L. Brown
The Kansas winter wheat crop is in the toilet. According to a report issued yesterday by the Kansas office of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (my emphasis):
Ninety-two percent of the wheat has turned, compared to 97 percent for both last year and the 5-year average. Twenty-four percent of the wheat is ripe, compared to 82 percent last year and 58 percent for the 5-year average. Two percent has been harvested, compared to 48 percent last year and 19 percent for the 5-year average. Wheat condition was rated 15 percent very poor, 22 percent poor, 29 percent fair, 25 percent good, and 9 percent excellent.
Even much of the crop that is rated in fair, good or excellent condition may be lost as unusually wet weather and flooding continues. According to an Associated Press report today, the severe conditions were caused by a combination of factors. According to the AP story the prospects were excellent for the 2007 wheat crop…
…[B]ut that was before the Easter weekend freeze, before the disease pressure, before the insect infestations and the heavy rains. Before the floods.
“Everything combined has really challenged this year’s crop — especially in southern Kansas,” said Dusti Fritz, chief executive officer for Kansas Wheat, a venture of the Kansas Wheat Commission and the Kansas Association of Wheat Growers.
In some areas of the state it is expected that the crop will be virtually a total loss. Custom combine operators have already moved on to other areas looking for work, and they might have difficulty finding it. In Oklahoma for example the situation is not much better, with the USDA estimating that only 41 percent of the wheat crop in that state has been harvested, versus a normal 92 percent by this date.
After seven years of drought, Kansas wheat farmers had hoped for a good crop this year. Now their only hope is that the unusually moist conditions this year will produce good yields of grain sorghum, corn, and other Spring-planted crops. That remains to be seen.
We are reminded once again of how fragile a thing is human existence on a planet that is stretched to the limit to feed more than 6.5 billion hungry mouths. And we must once more point out that as the wheat crop turns up a busted flush with lots of chips on the table, dozens of ethanol plants are nearing completion to turn a large proportion of this year’s corn crop into fake gasoline. Meanwhile, drought and other climate change events are hitting in other regions of the world, most notably in Australia where rivers are running dry and crops from this former food exporting continent have almost completely failed.
In Mexico we have already reported food riots due to skyrocketing prices of tortillas made from U.S. corn. How long before more serious events will begin to take place as the world supply of grain diminishes and prices soar? That will likely happen soon, for the grain reserves are razor thin. Many nations that depend on imported food may soon find that is not just a question of paying more for food, but that they are unable to buy food at any price because richer nations will outbid them.
If that takes place, it will introduce the stark specter of Famine in many parts of the over-populated Third World, and when that grim member of the Four Horsemen takes to the saddle to ride across the lands, his fellows Pestilence, War and Death are sure to accompany him.
Are we beginning to see the final harvest of those numerous toxic seeds of disaster sown over so many years? As the sizzling population “bomb” predicted by Paul Ehrlich and others nears the detonation point, the world is reaching Peak Oil and America is giving tax incentives to farmers and ethanol producers to turn food into a substitute for gasoline. And the saddest part of all is that hardly anyone seems to be aware of how serious this situation is. Either that, or they don’t care, in which case it represents criminal negligence on the part of every so-called “leader” who could have made sound decisions but opted to let the disaster unfold without making even the slightest attempt to head it off.
What folly, what insanity, what a bizarre comedy of errors we are witnessing.