Peter Baker Drought Puts Food at Risk, U.S. Warns The New York Times http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/19/us/drought-puts-food-at-risk-us-warns.html
"The Obama administration warned Wednesday that food supplies were at risk from the worsening drought afflicting more than half of the country and called on Congress to revive lapsed disaster aid programs.
...Mr. Vilsack [agricultural secretary] said 1,297 counties, or roughly a third of those in the nation, had been designated disaster areas. He said 39 more were being added on Wednesday.
More than three-quarters of the nation’s corn and soybean crops are in drought-affected areas, and more than a third of those crops are now rated poor to very poor, Mr. Vilsack said. The price of corn has increased in recent weeks by 38 percent, and the price of beans is up 24 percent. The country may still have the third-largest corn crop in history because earlier good weather encouraged planting, but Mr. Vilsack said the drought would increase food prices into 2013..."
Majia here: Keep in mind that much of the corn crop ends up being used as biofuels and would not be suitable for human consumption.
The Wall Street Journal also ran a story on the worsening drought:
L. Pleven and O. Fletcher Corn and Soybeans Reach Records. The WSJ (2012, July 19): C4
[Excerpted] "The drought now covers more than half of the continental US and covers a wider stretch of the country than in any drought since 1956...
'Disaster,' Peter Meyer, an agricultural analyst at PIRA Energy Group, wrote in a research note ... 'There's less than 11.5 billion bushels out there. How much less, I don't know'...."
Majia here: The WSJ article says agricultural secretary Vilseck claims that the situation doesn't warrant reduction of government mandates for ethanol production.
No doubt the reason is because the government subsidies ethanol production in a BIG way, even after the direct farm subsidies were dropped, because of legislation known as "Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)"
(see article http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2012/01/ethanol-subsidies-not-gone-just-hidden-little-better )
Read about problems with this program:
The Renewable Fuel Standard may not make it into the final form of 2012 farm bill.
However, unless this has been removed since June 22, the 2012 Farm bill also includes subsidies in the form of "the Biomass Research and Development Initiative and the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP). BCAP is a handout to farmers and ranchers who produce biomass for heat, power, bio-based products, or biofuels"http://blog.heritage.org/2012/06/22/biomassive-energy-subsidies-in-farm-bill/
Majia here: Why am I going on about the subsidies for corn grown for ethanol when my headline is about drought and crop failure?
Ethanol production has been linked to rising global food prices as land is taken away from food production and dedicated toward production of crops used in fuel.
Yet, ethanol production is simply not energy-efficient. I like the analysis here: http://www.realitybase.org/journal/2009/1/13/the-energy-efficiency-and-political-geography-of-corn-to-eth.html
The US has benefited from fertile land that has produced more than enough food for the population.
However, changing climate conditions may erode that capacity. Producing grain for inefficient fuel production processes and then subsidizing that policy make no sense in this context of climate change.
There is evidence that Fukushima may be contributing to the current extreme drought in the US. See my post here and be sure to read the comments also