The 2012 Drought
The July State of the Climate drought report has been released by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC). The report has revealed the 2012 drought as the worst drought the United States has seen in over 50 years, it will only get worse throughout August. With 62.9 percent of the contiguous 48 states showing drought conditions at the end of July, this year’s drought ranks the sixth highest percentage on record. To make matters worse, over 35 percent of the country is experiencing “severe” to “extreme” drought categories on the Palmer drought scale (the rating scale the NCDC uses to categorize droughts).
The report also revealed that a lack of rain throughout the country is exacerbating the problem. The Pacific Northwest, New England, and Florida have received their expected amounts of precipitation, but the rest of the country has been well below the average for rainfall. This is most apparent on the Mississippi River — it is 55 feet lower than its typical height.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has designated more than half of all counties in the US (50.3 percent/1,452 counties) as disaster areas, which gives qualifying farmers access to low-interest emergency loans. The USDA has also designated 218 additional counties in eight states as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat. Agricultural experts are estimating a 10-15 percent reduction in corn crops due to the drought, but a little rain could still save this year’s soybean harvest.
The United States accounts for over half of the global export market for corn and almost half of the soybean market with a 2011 total of $53 billion. A large portion of these exports are used as feed for livestock. This reduction in crops will not result in a food shortage, but it will raise the price of meat in the supermarket. In the next year, the USDA predicts a 4 to 5 percent increase in the price of beef, a 3.5 to 4.5 percent increase in the price of dairy products, and pork is predicted to have a 2.5 to 3.5 percent increase.