Foreign Policy Blogs

Is the U.S. facing its worst drought in recent memory?


Is the U.S. facing its worst drought in recent memory?

Drought ruins corn crops in Kansas. Image credit: Mashid Mohadjerin for The New York Times

The United States has designated one-third of its counties as federal disaster areas in order to authorize emergency funding for them to cope with some of the worst drought in nearly 60 years, according to John Eligon’s article in The New York Times.

The extensive drought zone falls within some of the country’s largest corn- and soybean-producing  areas.  The devastating effect on crops is leading to “[c]orn and soybean prices reach[ing] record highs…” and no assurance of immediate relief.

According to Eligon, the damage to corn crops brought on by the drought can reduce corn available for sale, raising prices for existing stocks.

As of Sunday, more than half of the corn in seven states was in poor or very poor condition, according to the Department of Agriculture. In Kentucky, Missouri and Indiana, that figure is above 70 percent. Over all, only 31 percent of the nation’s corn is in good to excellent condition, compared with 66 percent at the same time last year. “

Corn is not only eaten on its own or as an ingredient in foods, it is used in feed for livestock that produce meat and cheese.  Prices for all of these foods are in jeopardy of increasing at a time when Americans are already struggling due to a weak economy.  

The article also features a graphic illustrating the areas of the United States that experienced “moderate to extreme drought in June of each year” from 1896-2010.