Dennis Boogards looked sad and helpless when he stood by his sun-scorched 1,000-acre farm of corn and soybeans. The crops were half dried or barely growing, but there was still no sign of rain.
After a rainless July coupled with daily heat at 95 to 105 degrees Fahrenheit, the family farm owner in the U.S. Midwest state of Iowa now expects a harvest of merely 70 to 80 bushels per acre on the corn field, instead of the past average of 180 to 220 bushels an acre. His biggest wish right now is to see more rains in August, which can help fill out the soybean pods and stem the loss.
"See? The kernels are starting to dry up on this corn plant," Boogards told Xinhua in a recent interview, pointing to the plant he just pulled out of the field. "If we don't get any more rains, we will continue to see the kernels get smaller and continue to dry up."
Turning to a soybean plant, he added: "If it continues to dry, these flowers will dry up, shrivel and fall off. August is the most important time for bean pods to be filled. They really need moisture and not a lot of heat during August."
"Days ago I saw a cloud coming with heavy shade. I took a glass of beer and sat here waiting to celebrate, but the shade just stopped before me and moved away," recalled Boogards, a bitter smile on his face.
Iowa is reputed as a "God-chosen" farming state, where extra investment in irrigation is seldom needed. Before this drought- haunted crop year, it had experienced five straight moisture years, as well as 24 consecutive years free of drought.
"In fact in Iowa, we have only about 0.5 or 1 percent (of farmland) that is irrigated. So it depends on rainfall which comes almost every year," Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey told Xinhua.
Presently, however, not only Boogards' farm is in desperate need of rain, so are the farms in 42 out of the 99 counties in Iowa. Similar situation is seen in another 1,410 counties in 31 other states across the country. They represent 50.3 percent of the overall land of the continental United States, a record proportion unseen in more than 50 years, according to the latest report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Iowa may not be the worst-hit area, but it matters. Known as the "Food Capital of the World," the state straddles on the Corn Belt, and leads the nation in production of corn, soybeans, pork and eggs. It is also a major producer of beef and chicken.
The state exports 7 billion dollars worth of farm products to China each year, half of which are soybeans and the other half corn, pork and beef.
FOOD COST DRIVEN UP
Although it is hard to estimate the exact loss from the drought, as many crops are still in the growing season, there is little doubt that the overall U.S. agricultural production will be reduced for the current crop year.
The USDA said the drought, along with heat, has now affected 88 percent of the corn crop. It cut its corn yield forecast to 146 bushels an acre for the year, the lowest level since 2003.
The news spooked consumers and invigorated investors. December corn futures on the Chicago Board of Trade, or the most active corn contract, went up to 7.96 dollars per bushel, over one dollar higher than a month ago.
With the prices shooting upward, it may not be a nightmare for
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