How the drought killing #Kansas corn crops could make you pay more for gas and beef — High Plains Public Radio #ActOnClimate #KeepItInTheGround

Kansas Drought Monitor map September 13, 2022.

Click the link to read the article on the High Plains Public Radio website (David Condos). Here’s an excerpt:

Drought is taking its toll on western Kansas cornfields this year. And all that dead corn could mean higher prices for products that depend on the state’s grain supply, such as ethanol-infused gasoline and corn-fed beef.

Fewer than seven inches of rain have fallen this year in the area he farms between Dighton and Scott City — nearly one foot below the historical average…Across western Kansas, vast swaths of brown, shriveled corn plants succumbed to the oppressive weather before reaching more than a couple of feet tall. Others grew ears with no kernels or no ears at all. Some of Ramsey’s stalks that stretched to six-feet-tall on July rains withered down to nothing under the late summer sun. The harvests from these western Kansas cornfields typically fuel billion-dollar industries, such as feeding cattle. But with so little corn to go around this year, those industrial customers are paying a premium to ship grain in from other states just to keep their operations running…

Dan O’Brien, a Kansas State University agricultural economist based in Colby, said that number has roughly doubled. Prices had already been creeping up since Russia invaded Ukraine — another major corn exporter — and now thanks to the drought-fueled shortage, the price in western Kansas is around $8 per bushel…The lack of local corn supply is already pushing Kansas cattle and ethanol companies to bring in grain by rail from places like Iowa, Illinois and Ohio. That’ll inflate corn prices across the Midwest, as local corn-dependent industries in those states suddenly have to compete with more buyers from Kansas. But it’ll especially hurt Kansas. O’Brien estimates it’ll cost Kansas industries an extra $1 per bushel to ship in corn from other states…

In the short term, O’Brien expects the corn crunch to push meat and ethanol prices up. Beef prices had fallen recently as the drought forced livestock owners to sell off more of their cattle. But even those higher prices might not be enough to keep corn-dependent companies profitable in western Kansas.

Photo credit: Bob Berwyn

Water levels in the Ogallala aquifer — the primary water source for most of western Kansas — have been declining for decades since the dawn of irrigated farmland. Estimates show that if pumping trends continue, more than two-thirds of the water under Kansas will be gone within 40 years.

Ogallala Aquifer. Credit: Big Pivots

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