Think food prices are painfully high? Wait a few weeks. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that 88 percent of this year’s corn crop and 77 percent of the soybean crop are now affected by the most severe drought since 1988.
Corn is currently selling at around $9 a bushel, a 50 percent increase from June, while soybeans are selling at a record high of $17 a bushel as a result of drought-related losses in crop yields. Nearly half of all domestic corn production is used as livestock feed, a trend that is now encouraging larger livestock producers to import corn from Brazil while smaller farmers must reduce herd sizes by sending more animals to the market. Most immediately, poultry prices are expected to rise 3.5 to 4.5 percent due to the animals’ more rapid growth and therefore more sudden response to higher feed prices. The price of beef is projected to rise the highest — 4 to 5 percent by November — but at a slower rate, reflecting the longer growth period and higher feed requirements of beef cattle.
“The increased prices may benefit farmers in the short run,” said Danielle Nierenberg, director of the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project, ”but consumers will experience the aftermath of price increases in the form of more money spent on poultry, beef, pork, and dairy products.”
But according to the researchers at Worldwatch, it doesn’t have to be this way. The Project highlights 12 agricultural innovations that can help make U.S. and global agriculture more drought resilient, as well as sustainable. What do you think of this list? And more importantly, do you think the U.S. will implement even one of these ideas on a large enough scale to save our food system?
1. Agroforestry: Planting trees in and around farms reduces soil erosion by providing a natural barrier against strong winds and rainfall. Tree roots also stabilize and nourish soils. The 1990 Farm Bill established the USDA National Agroforestry Center with the expressed aim of encouraging farmers to grow trees as windbreaks or as part of combined forage and livestock production, among other uses.