Drought is blistering key U.S. cash crops, further elevating prices for staples including corn and wheat.
The punishing dynamics of a torrid summer were evident this month on the Pro Farmer Crop Tour, an annual event in which farmers visit key growing areas across the grain belt to gather data on the coming harvest.
Driving along State Route 14 outside of Verdigre, Neb., Randy Wiese turned to see a farmer harvesting hay. The piles were small. “That farmer is sick to his stomach,” said Mr. Wiese, who farms 800 acres of soybeans and corn in Lake Park, Iowa. He isn’t alone. Farm incomes have been hit hard over the past two years, first when Covid-19 shutdowns hammered prices and afterward when hot, dry weather reduced output, limiting farmers’ capacity to cash in on rising demand and higher prices.
Extreme heat is baking most of the U.S. North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska all contain areas of extreme drought, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. North Dakota and Minnesota, in particular, are experiencing near-record lows in soil moisture, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As a result, many crops planted this spring are wilting.
Some 63% of the U.S. spring wheat crop is in poor or very poor condition, versus 6% at this time last year, according to Agriculture Department data.
Contact Jay Allen at [email protected]