Hitting the grocery store is getting more costly.
Beef prices are at a record high, and the cost of other staples, such as milk, butter, eggs, fruit and vegetables are climbing. With a severe drought ravaging farms across most of California, prices are at risk of shooting significantly higher this year.
If I'd met Mother Nature in 2012, I would have to assume at this point in 2013 that she is bipolar. Record high temperatures last March pushed us to planting time nearly a month ahead of an average start date. At the beginning of June 2012, we did not yet know that the rain wouldn't fall for another six weeks, and temperatures would hold steady in the triple digit zone.
I asked my sister to snap a picture of me standing in the corn we planted on April 2. I was surprised at how well the crops looked without more than a few tenths of precipitation since seed met soil, and wanted to show off our earliest planted corn blowing away that old "knee high by Fourth of July" saying.
The Dekalb seed company recently shared a poster on Facebook depicting the top corn yields of 1940 and it got the gears turning in my head. For many decades, corn growers at the local, state and national level have competed in yield contests to see who can grow the most corn per acre. Bragging rights are at stake (and sometimes cash and prizes), and the 1940 yield contest winner for my home state of Indiana harvested 94.81 bushels per acre.
What about that clicks in my ag-nerd brain? The fact that in 2012, hopefully the worst drought of my farming career, saw our farm garner an average corn yield of 94.7 bushels per acre. For all intents and purposes, that's equal to the best of the best in my great grandfather’s day.
The poster shows a 102.38 bushel average for contestants over 12 states. The U.S. averaged about 123 bushels per acre following the horrendous drought of 2012. By those numbers, today’s worst is better than yesteryear’s top dogs.
No matter if they're honey-dipped, sauce-slathered, mild or volcanic, chicken wings will cost more for Super Bowl party hosts and pub patrons across America this year.
That's mainly because the most severe and extensive drought in 25 years blazed a path of destruction through the Midwest during the sizzling summer of 2012. It damaged and destroyed major portions of fields, caused crop prices to rise and created a domino effect on overall food prices.
“The prices of corn and soybeans went way up. That caused many of the [chicken growers] to cut back on production,” said David Harvey, an agricultural economist and specialist in poultry at the United States Department of Agriculture.
The past year saw a mild winter give way to a balmier-than-normal spring, followed by a sweltering summer and high temperatures that lingered into the fall, all punctuated by extreme drought and intense storms.
Now 2012 is officially in the books as the hottest year on record for the continental United States and the second-worst for "extreme" weather such as hurricanes, droughts or floods, the U.S. government announced Tuesday.
Way back in July, I spoke to Eatocracy readers about the drought. It was hot, and dry, and it had been that way for too long. By late July all of our corn had pollinated under the stress of extreme heat and extended drought. Some amount of rain was needed for plants to have energy for grain fill. So what happened when harvest equipment finally entered the field?
Tens of thousands of people have fled northern Mali as Islamist militants tighten their grip over the vast desert region. Those who remain face an increasingly desperate humanitarian situation with little access to food, clean water and medicine. The International Rescue Committee and international relief organizations, meanwhile, are struggling to deliver vital aid to suffering Malian civilians.
Over 450,000 people have fled the north since the Islamist takeover and another half-million people inside the country are in need of immediate assistance according to the United Nations and international aid organizations.
“The situation in the north of the country is becoming more and more alarming,” said Tasha Gill, who directs the IRC’s aid programs in Mali. “Basic services like health centers, water points and schools have stopped functioning. And although food can be found at the market now, many simply cannot afford to buy it. A perfect storm is brewing and thousands need humanitarian assistance.”
A week after Mohammed was born, he was abandoned by his parents and left in the care of an aunt who was already struggling to raise nine children.
“Milk is expensive and it is very hard to feed them all,” the aunt, Assetou Diallo, said as she sat in front of her home, a one-room shack next to a busy dirt road on the outskirts of the Malian capital of Bamako.
This year has been particularly difficult, the 35-year-old said. The drought killed the family’s modest crops, grown in a small garden nest to the house, and the price of food has skyrocketed.
The heat inside the small medical clinic is stifling. An occasional breeze from an open window provides the only relief. A dozen lethargic children, their ribs exposed and twig-like arms outstretched, lay on beds covered by mosquito nets.
I accompany Keita Cheick Oumar, a doctor with the International Rescue Committee (IRC), as he checks on patients in a health clinic located in the densely populated Kati district, near the Malian capital of Bamako. Kati district has been hard hit by Mali’s deepening hunger crisis and as elsewhere in the country the crisis is having an especially devastating impact on children.