US droughts continue to threaten global food prices

Corn plants struggle to survive on the drought

CHICAGO — The severe drought in the US Midwest wreaked more havoc across the country yesterday, forcing barges on the Mississippi River to lighten loads for fear of getting stuck and raising concerns about higher prices for food and gasoline.

Damage to crops in the most extensive drought in five decades and the pressure of the November elections sparked some action in the US Congress to bring relief to farmers and make progress on a generous farm bill.

“When times are tough for farmers, they tend to be more active politically,” Iowa Senator Charles Grassley said, urging fellow Republicans to act on the farm bill and avoid punishment at the polls.

US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner said that Republican leaders were working with the Agriculture Committee “on an appropriate path forward”.

“I do believe the House will address the livestock disaster programme that unfortunately in the last farm bill was only authorised for four years,” Boehner said.

Rain in the northern Midwest overnight improved corn and soybean crop prospects, and grain prices eased back a bit from near-record highs. But only light rains fell over parched areas of Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois overnight, and more heat and dryness in the southern Midwest was forecast.

“There should be some improvement in areas like the Dakotas and Minnesota,” Andy Karst, an agricultural meteorologist for World Weather Inc, said. “They have had some good rains of up to an inch or more and there should be more rain and more improvement over the next week.”

At the Chicago Board of Trade, corn for September delivery closed 12-1/2 cents lower at $7.82 a bushel, down five per cent from last week’s record high. August soybeans closed 38-1/4 cents lower at $16.56, down seven per cent from last week’s record high. September wheat closed 18-1/2 cents lower at $8.84-3/4, down seven per cent from last week’s four-year high.

Crop scouts yesterday reported corn yield prospects down about 27 per cent from last year in central Iowa, the largest producing state. But dousings from recent night-time rains had helped soybeans. Early planting also may be helping soybeans survive the worst effects of the drought, scouts said. (Reuters)

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