By David L. Brown
The drought in America not only isn’t getting better…it’s getting a lot worse. The combination of heat and lack of rain has put a large portion of the nation’s field crop prospects in severe jeopardy. The Associated Press today has an update, and the news is far from encouraging. (You can read the AP article, “Report: Drought Worsens in Key Farm States” here):
The latest statistics from reporting agencies reveal that the proportion of cropland in Iowa that’s in extreme or exceptional drought more than doubled just in the last week, from 30.74 percent to 69.14 percent now. In Illinois, the levels of extreme or exceptional drought rose to 81.18 percent. And in Nebraska, the percentage of land in those categories rose by another 8 percentage points to 91.2 percent of the total.
It’s hard to grasp just how serious the implications of such catastrophic figures are for our future, and the degree to which the situation has worsened in just since the last weekly report is ominous to say the least. Overall, more than one-half of the nation’s corn crop is rated poor to very poor.
The conditions in Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska are particularly serious. You may think, well those are only three states so can it really matter that much? Well, first, they’re not the only states that are in trouble, but there’s something special about those three, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. That special thing is that they are generally our nation’s three largest producers of corn. Let’s look at last year as a benchmark. According to a USDA report issued in September, 2011, Iowa’s corn production was projected at 2,296,250,000 bushels. Illinois came in second at 1,980,300,000 bushels, and Nebraska was in third place at 1,544,000,000 bu. Between those three states alone a total of 5, 820,550,000 bushels were projected. That’s just under six billion bushels of corn.
How much was the entire nation projected to produce when the harvest was done? Good question, I’m glad you asked. The answer is 12,497,070,000 bushels. About 12.5 billion bushels, of which about 5.8 billion came from those three states of Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska. Which means that those three states represent about 46.4 percent of America’s total corn crop as of 2011 and the other 47 states produced only 53.6 percent of the total (and just to make sure you understand, crops in many of those states are experiencing extreme drought stress).
Note also that the U.S. usually grows about 40 percent of all the corn in the world, and is the largest exporter by far. What all this means is that that old Nemesis Famine is about to stalk the planet. Drought is also being experienced in other parts of the world, including India and China with their huge populations that need to be fed. Some countries, such as Egypt with about 80 million people in a country that is 97 percent sandy desert, are almost totally reliant on imports of grains, including corn which is used to grow livestock and poultry for food. Other nations, such as Mexico with its need for tortillas, are also dependent upon imports of American corn.