Friday, October 5, 2012

Fifty Second Friday: Without the Water

Dilip Vishwanat via New York Times
Summer may be over, but many farmers are still suffering the ill effects of an unusually warm and dry year. And when farmers should have experienced a bumper crop of corn this year, they instead faced a sharp loss of yields from high temperatures and lack of rainfall. According to an article in yesterday's New York Times, this drought, the most far-reaching in decades, may be threatening a rural way of life. 

Corn farmers' crop withered on the stalk, although crop insurance made up some the losses. Livestock farmers were hard hit, with the rise in feed prices from a poor harvest, and many were forced to sell or cull their herds. For some, the drought has undermined the very foundation and future potential of their business, and Congress' inability to reauthorize the Farm Bill is not making anything easier. The article goes on to mention off-farm incomes to supplement a struggling harvest year. It also addresses threats to future of the children on farms, with a reduction in funds available for education or for building up the agricultural ventures they would one day inherit. 

While not intending to paint too bleak of a picture, this article does touch on one of the fundamental issues with our current agricultural systems - lack of diversity. Crop insurance helps mitigate impacts of extreme weather events like drought, however, it's more of a band-aid than a cure. With a projected increase in these weather extremes, the reliance on one crop or one agricultural product does not leave much room for adapting to changes or spreading risk. Does this put our agriculture in a precarious position? Probably, but I suppose only time will tell. 

More light-hearted (and edible) musings to come next week!

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