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Sunday, August 5, 2012

Forecasted Drought and Food Shortages Will Make the Collapse Much Worse

So what's new with a drought? Haven't we always had some sort of drought warning? Aren't we big enough as a country to mitigate drought effects? The answers Drought Forecasted

A double-barreled dose of bad news came out Thursday: Not only did the drought worsen over the last week, but it's likely to widen and intensify through the end of October, according to the seasonal outlook prepared by government forecasters.

"Unfortunately, all indicators (short and medium-term, August, and August-October) favor above normal temperatures," the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center said in its Seasonal Drought report."We don't see a reason to say it will improve," Kelly Helm Smith, a specialist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, told reporters. "I'm in the Midwest," she said, referring to her office at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, "it's really unpleasant."

The outlook noted that "a dramatic shift in the weather pattern" would be required "to provide significant relief to this drought, and most tools and models do not forecast this." Drought could take hold in the northern plains by October, the Climate Prediction Center added Moreover, last week saw a continued "downward spiral of drought conditions," according to the weekly report.

Adding to the drought concerns is Lester R. Brown, author of an article titled:  "The world is closer to a food crisis than most people realise".  He is the president of the Earth Policy Institute and also the author of Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity, due to be published in October

In the early spring this year, US farmers were on their way to planting some 96millon acres in corn, the most in 75 years. A warm early spring got the crop off to a great start. Analysts were predicting the largest corn harvest on record.

The United States is the leading producer and exporter of corn, the world's feedgrain. At home, corn accounts for four-fifths of the US grain harvest. Internationally, the US corn crop exceeds China's rice and wheat harvests combined. Among the big three grains – corn, wheat, and rice – corn is now the leader, with production well above that of wheat and nearly double that of rice.

The corn plant is as sensitive as it is productive. Thirsty and fast-growing, it is vulnerable to both extreme heat and drought. At elevated temperatures, the corn plant, which is normally so productive, goes into thermal shock.

As spring turned into summer, the thermometer began to rise across the corn belt. In St Louis, Missouri, in the southern corn belt, the temperature in late June and early July climbed to 100F or higher 10 days in a row. For the past several weeks, the corn belt has been blanketed with dehydrating heat.

Weekly drought maps published by the University of Nebraska show the drought-stricken area spreading across more and more of the country until, by mid-July, it engulfed virtually the entire corn belt. Soil moisture readings in the corn belt are now among the lowest ever recorded.

While temperature, rainfall, and drought serve as indirect indicators of crop growing conditions, each week the US Department of Agriculture releases a report on the actual state of the corn crop. This year the early reports were promising. On 21 May, 77% of the US corn crop was rated as good to excellent. The following week the share of the crop in this category dropped to 72%. Over the next eight weeks, it dropped to 26%, one of the lowest ratings on record. The other 74% is rated very poor to fair. And the crop is still deteriorating.

Over a span of weeks, we have seen how the more extreme weather events that come with climate change can affect food security. Since the beginning of June, corn prices have increased by nearly one half, reaching an all-time high on 19 July.

Although the world was hoping for a good US harvest to replenish dangerously low grain stocks, this is no longer on the cards. World carryover stocks of grain will fall further at the end of this crop year, making the food situation even more precarious. Food prices, already elevated, will follow the price of corn upward, quite possibly to record highs.

Not only is the current food situation deteriorating, but so is the global food system itself. We saw early signs of the unraveling in 2008 following an abrupt doubling of world grain prices. As world food prices climbed, exporting countries began restricting grain exports to keep their domestic food prices down. In response, governments of importing countries panicked. Some of them turned to buying or leasing land in other countries on which to produce food for themselves.

Welcome to the new geopolitics of food scarcity. As food supplies tighten, we are moving into a new food era, one in which it is every country for itself.

The world is in serious trouble on the food front. But there is little evidence that political leaders have yet grasped the magnitude of what is happening. The progress in reducing hunger in recent decades has been reversed. Unless we move quickly to adopt new population, energy, and water policies, the goal of eradicating hunger will remain just that.

Time is running out. The world may be much closer to an unmanageable food shortage – replete with soaring food prices, spreading food unrest, and ultimately political instability– than most people realise.


  1. That is why we as individuals needed along time ago to not depend on others to feed us but to take care of oursleves. Grow a garden with heirloom seeds even if it is a small one on a stoop or patio. Because even if the drought doesn't get us Mosanto, Dow, BASF, etc will with their genetically altered seed corn its killing all the bees and other small pollinators that help produce those big yields. So without pollinators there is no crops. If possible try to keep a small hive of bees around to pollinate your own stuff. I know in my area no one really plants grain crops so have a better chance to sustain a hive of bees. And grow your own small garden and can as much as you can produce to store away for when necessary.

  2. Climate change? No! La Nina? Yes! This is typical weather in a La Nina year and weather forecasters knew this in the Early spring. The good news is this is not as bad a La Nina drought as previous ones in recent history have been. That could change, it could get worse. But it is important to know this isn't "unusual" and it was predictable.

  3. I assume you meant shortages, and not storages in the title. If our storage of foodstuffs is causing a disruption then it could be described as hoarding. In all seriously, federal mandates on ethanol production can't be helping a shortage, because it only makes sense to a eco-nazi to convert petroleum products into a lower energy fuel that requires petroleum products to transport. When an ever increasing portion of the corn harvest is grown to only meet the non demand, but fiat ordered levels forced upon us in accordance with the spun belief that it reduces dependence on forgien oil, any disruption of growing cycles will result in higher prices, and lower supplies. This is doubly true when ethanol takes priority over foodstuffs, and disturbing because very few modern foods do not contain corn products in at least one form. With wages flatlining, gas prices resurging, all it would need to spark the critical mass is food availabilty to drop, less a matter of full shelves than empty purses. Marie Antoinette wasn't amuzed by the crowd takin vengance on the royal aloofness, and deteachment from their populace.