Friday, July 20, 2012

Drought's Impact on Economy - Shouldn't We and Obama Be Talking About This?

This is the drought of a generation:

The summer, 2012 drought is the worst in decades, and John Eligon in the New York Times tells us that it will likely last into October. (See this series of drought maps in the New York Times for the continental United States, reaching back decades. This is the worst drought since 1956, in terms of our widespread the drought is against the lower 48 states.)

And its affect on the food economy? Huge. Particularly since the parts of the United States where it is hitting hardest are grain producing areas.

The United States is a rice producer and the signature states in this chart are in the impacted area. (See this article on home brew sake for major rice producing states: "Arkansas, California, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas are the rice producing states.")
The area of severe to extreme drought reaches pretty much continuously from central Kentucky and Tennessee west to eastern Utah. The severe or extreme drought areas reach to Nebraska and parts of Wyoming and South Dakota. Basically, the drought reaches into America's breadbasket heartland.

Corn prices, and all the foods reliant on corn or corn syrup, are expected to head up. Mark Huffman, July 16, 2012, in Consumer Affairs, wrote that corn futures have already increased 50 percent since the drought started. The effects reach beyond straight corn. Corn syrup is used in a wide range of baked foods such as breads, crackers and chips, as CNN reported this week. Expect the up-to-now cheap drinks sweetened by high fructose corn syrup to increase in price. Ethanol and vitamins also rely on corn. Livestock are fed corn, so impacts will be felt with chicken, egg, pork and beef prices. As Akweli Parker wrote at the How Stuff Works site, besides ethanol, industrial uses of corn include vitamins, paper and cardboard production.

So, as some observers anticipate global consequences of the drought of 2012 (noted by Naomi Spencer and by contributor at Business Insider, is it not time for the last doubting Republican politicians to stop playing chicken and to start acting constructively to reverse the climate changing impact of global warming? Will traditionally red, conservative states tilt more liberal in this cataclysmic year?

And Barack Obama thinks that he's got problems with the manufacturing and service economies? Using climate change and food prices would seem a good strategy to whip Republicans into shape, or at least to whip up public sentiment to turn the troglodytes out of office.

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