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Rain brings moment of relief

Rain, glorious rain!

Unfortunately, there just hasn’t been much of it around here lately.

Southeast Missouri hasn’t had significant rain in the last 30 days or more. A fact that probably hasn’t escaped the attention of anyone living in the Parkland.

It’s not much better anywhere else in the “lower 48.” In fact, the entire country is smack dab in the middle of a severe drought, and it’s really starting to hurt — a lot. Even with the refreshing but sparse rainfall that fell in southeast Missouri Thursday and Friday, things aren’t looking good for farmers.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, pasture, rangeland, and crop conditions are continuing to deteriorate from the Colorado High Plains to the Ohio and Mid-Mississippi valleys, and from Oklahoma to the Dakotas. 

Temperatures reached 100 degrees or hotter across the state every day last week, and it isn’t supposed to change over the next week either.

United States Department of Agriculture statistics indicate that more than 90 percent of the topsoil is short or very short of moisture in the states of Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. To make matters even worse, 99 percent of Missouri and Illinois is short or very short of moisture.

Over 80 percent of the pasture and rangeland is in poor or very poor condition in Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Illinois and Indiana. Corn, soybean, sorghum, and alfalfa losses continued to mount, ponds dried up and wells failed in several of the states.

USDA acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that the drought now covering two-thirds of the country will lead to significantly higher food prices for consumers. The catastrophe in the corn belt, which has seen crops decimated by extreme heat and prolonged drought, will have ripple effects throughout the food system, the department of agriculture said in its food price outlook.

According to the report, US consumers can expect to pay up to 4.5 percent more for beef because corn, which is used for cattle feed, will be in such tight supply.

Chicken and turkey are also projected to rise by up to 4.5 percent, and the price of eggs will also go up, but by about 2 percent.

Cooking oil, which is produced by the most devastated crops – corn and soybean – is projected to rise by 4.5 percent, as well.

USDA says supermarket shoppers will probably notice the higher prices with chicken first, because they have a shorter lifespan. Food price inflation for other items, such as cereal and baked goods, will begin working their way through the system in 2013.

“The transmission of commodity price changes into retail prices typically takes several months to occur, and most of the impact of the drought is expected to be realized in 2013,” Richard Volpe, the USDA’s food economist, wrote in a note accompanying the forecast.

Some economists are even predicting a temporary drop in beef prices, with ranchers bringing their animals to slaughter sooner rather than paying higher prices for feed.

The report warned however that “the full extent of the drought and its effects on commodity prices are as yet unknown.”

Kevin R. Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 114 or at

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