A persistent drought, that scientists are saying has been made worse by global warming, is now threatening the nation’s winter crops.
According to the US Drought Monitor, 64% of the US is now suffering from some level of drought. Though the overall area of drought fell slightly last week, regions of the US West and heartland experienced intensifying drought. This persistence of broad areas and intensification in critical regions is contributing to anxiety over US winter crops. And many key states, including Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa are already experiencing impacts.
According to CBS’s Money Watch:
Dry conditions continue to intensify in Kansas, where extreme drought now covers the entire south-central portion of the state, according to Thursday’s update released by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.
Those parched environs are stalling growth of winter wheat. The 65 percent of that crop planted in Kansas as of last Sunday was slightly above the average pace, though a below-average 25 percent of that emerged. Less than one-third of Nebraska’s winter wheat fields have germinated, 12 days behind the norm.
The new threat to US crops comes on the back of severe summer losses to the nation’s corn crop. These losses have caused yields to drop to 122 bushels per ache, the lowest average per acre since 1995. Overall, industry use of corn will need to be negotiated due to tightening supplies — a form of industry rationing that takes place during times of constraint. Total US corn production is expected to be 10.71 billion bushels, down from last month’s estimate and the lowest since 2006. Current US corn supply is the lowest in 17 years — three weeks of forward supply. Drought persisting through winter will hit wheat crops as well, resulting in even more tightness in the grain markets.
Unfortunately, the long-term forecast is for global warming to result in worsening overall drought conditions for the US. Serious efforts are needed to prevent further damage to US farmers and US agriculture. This year’s drought, the worst in 55 years, comes on the back of the fifth driest period for the US west in 500 years. Climate experts only show worsening conditions if greenhouse gas emissions are not curtailed.