Nestled on a hillside in northern Virginia, Breaux Vineyards' 105 acres of vines are looking good this year, according to General Manager Chris Blosser.
While California still makes the vast majority of American wine, all 50 states produce it. Virginians have been growing grapes for some 400 years, starting in the Jamestown settlement, and the wine business has surged in the state over the last decade. Soil and climate conditions in Loudoun County, where this family-owned vineyard is located, make it one of Virginia's top wine-producing regions.
The drought plaguing much of the country has hurt corn and soy crops, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimating that 2012-2013 corn yields would hit the lowest level since 1995-1996. But the drier than normal growing season can be good for grapes.
With extreme heat and the worst drought in half a century continuing to plague the farm states, there are important lessons to be learned for all of us - farmers, consumers and the world's poorest populations alike - about the effect of climate change.
The Agriculture Department announced this season's first major crop yield forecasts, and they weren't pretty: a nationwide average of 123.4 bushels of corn per acre, the lowest level since 1995. Soybean yield is expected to be low too, though not as bad as corn.
Oil companies drilling in the drought-ridden fields of southern Kansas are taking desperate measures to get the water they need to tap into the state's oil reserves.
Huge amounts of water are required to extract oil, especially when companies use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which requires millions of gallons of water to crack the shale rock and bring oil to the surface. But now that the entire state is in emergency drought status, with only 1.19 inches of rainfall last month - the 10th driest July on record - unprecedented water shortages are making it difficult for drillers to get the water they need.
The drought that's drying up the Heartland isn't just an American problem. It's causing food prices to surge worldwide.
Food prices jumped 6% in July, after three months of declines, according to the United Nations' monthly Food Price Index released Thursday. The main drivers behind the increase? Grain prices. And more specifically, corn prices, which have hit record highs in recent weeks.
More than half of all U.S. counties have been designated disaster zones, the Department of Agriculture reported, blaming excessive heat and a devastating drought that's spread across the Corn Belt and contributed to rising food prices.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Wednesday declared disaster zone designations for an additional 218 counties in 12 states because of damage and losses caused by drought and excessive heat.
The states are Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming.
Read the full story - Historic drought puts over half of U.S. counties in disaster zones, USDA says
Video via KARE
Consumers can expect to pay more for beef, poultry and milk, as the worst drought in 50 years spreads across the Midwest, destroying crops and sending corn and soybean prices spiking.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Wednesday that meat prices would rise significantly, with the consumer price index for beef and veal expected to gain between 3.5% and 4.5% this year.
As we seeded our corn, soybeans, and popcorn on our Indiana farm this spring, there were many reasons to think that we would harvest a fantastic crop this fall. To start, we had a new John Deere planter equipped to help us plant with greater efficiency and accuracy than ever before. Then March came with temperatures 20-30 degrees above normal. Warm temperatures and dry conditions meant a very early start to planting on our farm. It seemed that with a long growing season ahead that the sky was limit for yield. That seems forever ago now.
Editor's note: Chris Chinn is a family farmer in Missouri. She adapted this essay from her blog.
(CNN) - The drought of 2012 will be one that farmers and ranchers remember for years to come. My husband, Kevin, and I are fifth-generation farmers. This is the first drought we have experienced since we were married and started farming together in 1995.
Our farm, like most other U.S. farms, is really suffering right now and in desperate need of rain. The media have pegged it right: it definitely is the worst drought of our generation.
Kevin and I own and raise hogs, cattle, corn, soybeans and alfalfa hay on our farm. Typically, we don't have a lot of crops to farm, but this year we decided to rent an extra 200 acres for that purpose, doubling our row-crop acreage. We were able to purchase crop insurance for most of our crops, but unfortunately that alone will not help make our farm or equipment payments to the bank since most of our crops are ruined.
Read the full story: Why the drought affects me - and you
As our resident cattle rancher and agriculture activist Ryan Goodman has discussed before, today's farmers are no strangers to social media, using hashtags like #agchat and #foodd to come together and share resources and collective knowledge.
The drought and heat spike that's overcome more than 60 percent of the United States and put farmers, their livestock and their crops in jeopardy has spawned the hashtag #drought12, and offered unique insight into the crisis, from the people at the heart of it.