The summer drought’s hefty toll on American crops — The Washington Post

Drought impacted corn. Water stress can lead to insufficient water supply for cities, agriculture, and vegetation. Dry vegetation may facilitate the propagation and increase the risk of wildfires.

Click the link to read the article on The Washington Post website (Laura Reiley). Here’s an excerpt:

Corn, wheat and other agricultural products withered in a year of glaring climate change impacts

Farmers, agricultural economists and others taking stock of this summer’s growing season say drought conditions and extreme weather have wreaked havoc on many row crops, fruits and vegetables, with the American Farm Bureau Federation suggesting yields could be down by as much as a third compared with last year. American corn is on track to produce its lowest yield since the drought of 2012, according to analysts at Rabobankwhich collects data about commodity markets. This year’s hard red winter wheat crop was the smallest since 1963, the bank’s analysts said. In Texas, cotton farmers have walked away from nearly 70 percent of their crop because the harvest is so paltry, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The California rice harvest is half what it would be in a normal year, an industry group said.

The poor yields are probably more than a one-year blip, as climate change alters weather patterns in agriculturally important parts of the country, contributing to higher food prices that experts don’t see ebbing any time soon. Drought has consumed 40 percent of the country for the past 101 weeks, USDA meteorologistBrad Rippey said. But precisely where that 40 percent is has shifted over time, meaning different swaths of the country’s agricultural land have been affected at different times, spreading pain and difficult choices geographically and by crop.

US Drought Monitor map September 6, 2022.

“The biggest impacts this year have been the Central and Southern Great Plains — Nebraska southward through Texas — and the two big crops hit this year are grain sorghum [primarily used for animal feed] and cotton,” Rippey said…

In California, farmers are making tough choices to give up on their strawberries and tomatoes, lettuces and melons, so that whatever water they get goes to crops such as almonds, grapes and olives, into which they’ve sunk multiyear investments and which provide a better payoff, Rippey said…

The USDA had reduced its corn forecast last month because of this summer’s drought. But thePro Farmer Crop Tour, which concluded Aug. 25, found the corn yield was even worse than that lowered expectation. The on-the-ground inspectors also found the corn quality had suffered as a result of heat and dry conditions, with cobs carrying small grains and many suffering from “tipback,” when kernels are missing from the outer edge…Wheat has taken a walloping this year, with rains impeding spring planting after a protracted La Niña weather pattern meant several years of hotter and drier weather over key production areas. Drought is also having a dramatic effect on California rice, which isgrown mostly in the Sacramento Valley. The state, which grows medium-grain rice such as sushi rice, is at about half of a normal year’s production, said Katie Cahill, spokeswoman for the California Rice Commission. Many growers decided to fallow their fields and sell their water to perennialcrops such as almonds to defray their losses…The USDA recently estimated that the tomatoharvest this year will be 10.5 million tons, more than a million tons shy of a normal season, which will be reflected in the next year’s pizza, spaghetti sauce and ketchup prices. Harvest of the new potato crop is underway, and Rabobank analysts say the harvested area is projected to drop 4 percent from last year (and last year’s crop was the lowest in a decade). Its analysts also said year-to-date shipments of carrots are down 45 percent, sweet corn down 20 percent, sweet potatoes down 13 percent, and celery down 11 percent, all an indication of short supply. And according to the USDA, total peach production was down 15 percent from 2021, mostly because of California’s small crop…

But the bad news extends to cattle, portending bad news for next year’s beef prices. When weather is dry and hot, there’s not enough natural feed to go around. To sustain a herd, ranchers must bring in hay, and feed prices soar, prompting ranchers to sell their animals a little early, and often to sell heifers, the young females, rather than keep them as breeding stock, said Sarah Little, spokeswoman for the North American Meat Institute, a trade association. This has resulted in lower beef prices for consumers in the short term but signals that there probably will be a tighter supply next year.

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