Historic Drought Means Rising Food Prices

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Over half of the country is suffering through one of the worst droughts to hit the United States in recorded history. More than 1,000 counties throughout the country are eligible for natural disaster area loans.

Farmers are being hit hard, and their yields are expected to suffer. The smaller crop will lead to increased food prices, and that will impact everyone from the average supermarket consumer to food retailers.

For Texas cattle rancher Pete Bondsthe consequences of the drought are yet to come. While his cattle are doing just fine, the rising cost of corn will make it more expensive for him to feed his stock. That'll diminish his returns. 

But one man's loss is another man's gain, and one of those lucky men is Colorado corn farmer John Harold. Blessed with an irrigated farm, Harold's crop is unscathed, and he is looking forward to reaping the benefits of the rising corn prices. "We've been fortunate this year that we are able to irrigate, and we do have good crops," Harold says. The farmer has observed that the cattle ranches nearby have been hit the hardest by the drought, but a recent slew of monsoons has caused things to look up for ranchers in the area.

Bonds says that western Texas has borne the brunt of the drought, while ranches to the east have managed to get by alright. The lack of water has also sped up the timetable for ranchers like Bonds, who says that his ranches are already selling out their products until next year. This large-scale liquidation will cause a short-term drop in beef prices, but when the market begins to run out, meat will become more expensive. "Don't worry about us, but understand, though, in about two years when that veal shank doubles in price, it wasn't our fault."  

In Colorado, Harold agrees with Bonds' assessment. "In a couple of years, don't complain about the price going up because people have had to liquidate earlier than they normally would," he says. "In a one or two years, you're going to find a real shortage of good cattle.'"

We asked our listeners how they were responding to the drought in their part of the United States. Check out the map below to see what they had to say.


Pete Bonds and John Harold

Produced by:

Robert Balint, Rebecca Klein and John Light

Comments [2]

Dave Deken from Stillwater, Oklahoma

Agriculture is Oklahoma's number two industry and the drought is impacting our state for the second year. Actually last year's drought was more severe in the southern plains than this year. Cattle herds were liquidated, cotton crops were planted but couldn't grow to maturity because irrigation ditches were dry, and the wheat that was harvested was stressed and damaged. News of drought is nothing new to Okies. This round of drought is bad but we the moisture we received in April and May staved off the exceptional drought rating for a while, and helped move the planing/harvest cycle forward on the calendar so the plants are not in as tough shape, and many ag producers were able to make hay for their cattle allowing them to be spared from liquidation. Oklahoma Agricultural producers have lived this "national drought" for the past 2 years that is now making the national news.

Jul. 17 2012 11:19 AM
Karl Kharas from Denver

Re "screwy weather in Colorado -- not rain in the winter but rain now in the summer"

Well, it normally snows in Colorado in the winter and, true enough, it didn't snow much this past year.

But it is best to think of most of Colorado (and New Mexico and Arizona, at least) as having five seasons. Winter, Spring, early Summer (warm or hot and dry), summer monsoon (beginning typically in early to mid-July), and fall. This year's monsoon is coming right on schedule and, with luck, will continue to be relatively wet. Rain in July and August in Colorado is typical, not unusual.

Jul. 17 2012 09:43 AM

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