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.
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.
Farmers with Issues is a platform for farmers we love, fired up for causes about which they're passionate. Craig Rogers is the shepherd and owner of Border Spring Farm Lamb in Patrick Springs, Virginia, where he raises and sells pastured raised "Animal Welfare Approved" lamb to acclaimed chefs across the country. He is a vocal advocate for rural small farms.
Recently, the United States Department of Agriculture announced plans to buy up to $170 million of beef, pork, lamb and catfish to "help farmers in drought stricken areas." But from whom do they actually buy that meat? And does it help a farmer or family who may be your neighbor?
Editor's note: David Frum is a contributing editor at Newsweek and The Daily Beast and a CNN contributor. He is the author of seven books, including a new novel, "Patriots."
Prediction: 2013 will be a year of serious global crisis. That crisis is predictable, and in fact has already begun. It will inescapably confront the next president of the United States. Yet this emerging crisis got not a mention at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. We'll see if the Democrats do better.
The crisis originates in this summer's extreme weather. Almost 80% of the continental United States experienced drought conditions. Russia and Australia experienced drought as well.
The drought has ruined key crops. The corn harvest is expected to drop to the lowest level since 1995. In just July, prices for corn and wheat jumped about 25% each, prices for soybeans about 17%.
After a very wet spring in 2011 that delayed planting, the 2012 crop season looked promising as planting conditions were optimal. The outlook was refreshing as it meant few setbacks on the crop. However, the good conditions during planting quickly turned as our family waited and waited for moisture. Unfortunately, when the rains did arrive, they were few and far between.
This has turned into the worst drought our family has seen in generations. And more importantly, the drought this year is not isolated to my local community - our nation has not faced a drought this severe since the 1930s when the Dust Bowl completely devastated American agriculture. July temperatures reportedly broke records set during the Dust Bowl. During the 2012 crop year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) designated roughly half of all U.S. counties - 1,496 in 33 states - as disaster areas because of the drought.
As Hurricane Isaac continues to pound the Gulf Coast with rain and wind, meteorologists say the storm could provide some much-needed hydration in parts of the country hit hard by drought.
Isaac will bring "soaking downpours" to parts of Arkansas, Missouri and other Central states into the weekend, according to AccuWeather.
Severe weather striking your area of the country? Stock up on staples now and learn how to stay safe after the storm has passed.
Thunder clapped and rain fell just before Bionce, Sassy and the rest of Mark Argall's prize-winning dairy herd went up for auction.
Had the storm come a few weeks earlier, and if the drought had eased, it might have saved the cows - some of which were named with a bit of poetic license ("You can spell names however you want," he said) for pop-culture divas and celebrities.