The following article was posted on the alt.future.millennium Usenet by Geri Guidetti, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Though we certainly could use some good news from the Nations grain states, today is definitely not going to be the day. As you may have suspected from national news stories this week, the torrential rains and flooding that have saturated the Central and Eastern U.S. have, indeed, had a negative impact on an already precarious grain supply situation.
The Wall Street Journal for June 19th reports that grain traders are retreating from their rosier forecasts for a 9.8 billion bushel corn crop. Many are figuring on 9.1 million, while Conrad Leslie, a Chicago agricultural forecaster, is even less optimistic. He sees the young corn crops potential as low as 8.5 billion bushels. This is an important estimate because that level would not allow rebuilding of this countrys corn stockpiles which are already at 48-year lows -- no cushion, maybe even a shortage, for all of next year. As noted in earlier updates, corn reserves will be down to a two-week supply just before this years harvest. Beyond direct human consumption, corn is the most important feed grain for poultry and livestock.
Unfortunately for those farmers who decided to switch to growing soybeans after spring-planted corn was rained upon and chilled a few weeks ago, and for the Nations regular soybean farmers, this crop, too, is having bad times due to weather. In fact, soybean farmers have yet to plant 17 million waterlogged acres in IL, IN, OH and other soybean growing areas. Thats a lot of soybeans. The wet fields have not only limited access by heavy farm equipment, but have also become covered with rain-loving weeds. Now herbicides must be sprayed before the planting can be done. Both soybean and corn futures contracts have risen in price once again.
Wheat crop harvests which were nearly on schedule in the Southeastern U.S., were slowed due to the same heavy thunderstorms. Here, too, field access by harvesting equipment was thwarted and weeds have begun to get the upper hand. The USDA rates the Nations winter wheat crop for the week ending June 15th as "mostly fair to poor condition." Spring wheat condition was good to fair.
Rice condition for the five major, rice-producing states was "mostly good to fair." Rice fields in two of these important producing states, California and Louisiana, were infested with water weevils and had to be treated with pesticides.
Despite spotty thunderstorms in parts of the drought-stricken Southwest, water supplies remain very low in many areas. An example: in Colorado City, Texas, reservoir holdings are at only 5 percent of normal conservation level at Lake J.B. Thomas and 64 percent at Champion Creek.
Unfortunately, if you look at precipitation and temperature prediction data through June 29th, the Southwest drought will continue, even worsen, while above normal precipitation will plague the saturated Central and Eastern states. Not a pretty picture, to be sure. At this point, it is difficult to imagine a scenario that would not result in higher food prices across the board well into 1997. It is likely that U.S. demand for diminishing supplies will decrease somewhat as a result of what the USDA fondly calls "market forces," but, with so many animal and human mouths to feed, it can only decrease so far. Perhaps this is the year the U.S. becomes just one more bidder on the tightening, international grain market. A mere hint of things to come?
This report may be reprinted if copyright and complete signature file are printed intact.
Geri Guidetti, The Ark Institute