CHICAGO, July 30 (Reuters) – I have a pretty good idea of
what drought looks like after recently traveling more than 1,400
miles from Chicago to Utah: Vast patches of brown where there
should be green. Cornstalks that look like desiccated
scarecrows. Wilted soybeans. Forested Colorado canyons
devastated by wildfires and pine beetles.
Whether this is the brutal impact of climate change or a
short-term cycle, I can’t say. Regardless of your scientific or
political persuasion, though, what is certain is that water is
going to be an increasingly valuable commodity and a worthwhile
The short-term nightmare is that the United States is
experiencing its hottest year on record. States from Ohio to
California — 53 percent of the contiguous United States — are
in drought, according to the National Weather Service. Many
breadbasket states that have traditionally been blessed with
summer rains in the Midwest are parched.
As a result, 45 percent of the corn crop and 35 percent of
soybeans are rated “poor to very poor,” according to the U.S.
Department of Agriculture. The produce manager at my local
supermarket heard that farmers are close to plowing under their
fields and seeking crop-insurance payments as drought is
expected to intensify across America’s heartland. More than
1,200 counties have been declared disaster areas. Futures prices
on corn have already hit a record high.
As a result, look for higher prices on everything from bread
Globally, the long-term picture is worse. Rising water
demand due to population increases, industrialization and higher
standards of living in developing countries is exceeding supply.