A much-anticipated crop report from the USDA released Friday confirmed what everyone who has been gasping at pictures of parched fields already guessed: The drought is hammering corn and soybean production. Corn yield estimates are in free fall. Three months ago, the USDA was predicting 166 bushels per acre -- today, that number dropped to 123.
And those numbers will continue to fall. The drought is ongoing; in the areas that have already been hit worst by high temperatures and lack of rainfall, conditions are continuing to deteriorate.
Farmers may well have to adapt to the new abnormal. According to a new paper published this week in Nature, climate change will result in more of the same:
I conclude that the observed global aridity changes up to 2010 are consistent with model predictions, which suggest severe and widespread droughts in the next 30–90 years over many land areas resulting from either decreased precipitation and/or increased evaporation.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Who believes scientists and their stupid "models," anyway? Certainly not the politicians whom voters might want to entrust with the job of protecting America's agricultural bounty from rising temperatures. Neither Obama nor Romney has dared mention the words "climate change" as they barnstorm around the country.
Neither man is ignoring the drought. Both candidates are talking about how Congress should get its act together and pass a farm bill to speed aid to farmers affected by the drought -- a job, by the way, that puts Romney in the rhetorically challenging position of simultaneously advocating less government intrusion in the agricultural sector while steering billions of disaster aid to farmers. But connecting the dots between the warmest July in the North American historical record and human activities? Not a whisper from either Democrats or Republicans.
The only discernible difference between the two comes via the proxy of wind power. Obama wants to extend a wind power tax credit that will expire at the end of this year. Romney has promised to let it lapse, a stance that many Iowa Republicans find irritating, seeing as how even as their corn turns to dust, the wind keeps on blowing.