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.
With more than half the country in some state of drought, farmers are feeling the impact on their livelihood and consumers could expect to feel a hit in their wallet when they go to the supermarket soon, experts say.
The U.S. is facing the largest drought since the 1950s, the National Climatic Data Center reported Monday, saying that about 55% of the country was in at least moderate short-term drought in June for the first time since December 1956, when 58% of the country was in a moderate to extreme drought.
Ryan Goodman is a generational rancher from Arkansas with a degree in Animal Science from Oklahoma State University in Animal Science, and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree at the University of Tennessee, studying beef cattle management. He is one of many farmers using social media to bridge the gap between farmers and urban customers. Follow his story daily at AgricultureProud.com or on Twitter and Facebook.
This year’s drought has been rough across much of the country. All year, my dad has been telling me of the dry conditions in Arkansas, how the first hay crop didn’t make, and now how many farmers are selling their cattle herds because there is no hay or grass to feed the livestock.
The recent heat wave only intensified the situation, drying up ponds, pastures, and leaving many trees to start shedding leaves early. I haven’t had the opportunity for a trip home, but I can only imagine how rough it is.
Fires have been breaking out across Arkansas, keeping many on edge and fire fighters busy containing the flames. Over the past week, some spotty showers have popped up daily, but it isn’t enough to ease the situation.