“We Got Nothin’ to Harvest”
The ramifications of the drought in the U.S. are going to be enormous, and not in a good way:
Marion Kujawa strips back an ear of corn with disgust.
It’s a weedy specimen, only a few inches long. Half way up the cob gleams a solitary golden kernel. The farmer’s alarm at this measly harvest may soon be shared by consumers around the world, as food prices shoot up.
Then next ear he picks is even worse.
“There’s nothing. Nothing. It should be 10 inches long, completely full of grain but the heat was so bad, 110 out here, that means 140 degrees coming off the ground. It’s just burned up. I’ve done everything I can do. The rest is in the Maker’s hands. I can’t make rain.”
The spry 73-year-old, kitted out in his John Deere cap and denim overalls has farmed these 2,000 acres (809 ha) in southern Illinois for more than half a century.
He’s seen drought before. ’54 was bad, he says and in the 80s he watched as some good men went under, through no fault of their own.
But this past July has been the hottest in American history and he’s never seen anything like this. Devastation has come out of a clear blue cloudless sky, the lack of rain parching good ground into a cracked, pale grave for the crops.
Drive 500 miles north, to Chicago and the board of trade:
As we look at all the activity, Virginia McGathey, president of McGathey Commodities, tells me that she thinks the figures will be even worse than most people have been expecting.
“The prices are as high as they’ve ever been,” she says. “This was supposed to be the biggest crop ever of corn. The weather was wonderful in the spring and now it looks like we could have lost 50% of the crop. At that point all bets are off.”
She points out that American farmers are not the only ones who have been suffering through a lack of rain. It’s been the same story in Russia, parts of Asia, and earlier in the year, South America.
“World food prices are definitely going up, and I believe they are going up to stay,” Virginia McGathey says. She thinks corn prices could pass $9 a bushel, a price that would be “astronomical”.
“If you think back in the day you could buy a pair of tennis shoes for $10, now they’re like a $110, we’re heading that way with grain prices. You’re going to see prices go up, minimum 20% at the grocery stores.”