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The U.S. Drought and World Hunger

The 2006 to 2008 world food crisis caused much harm to developing nations, especially the poorest and least well-fed. The cause is arguable, but my understanding is that the conversion of vast amounts of U.S. agricultural land from growing food to growing biofuel caused the crisis. Now we are on the verge of a second world food crisis, this one worse than the last. One factor is the current severe U.S. drought.

drought-2013-03-23

Most U.S. residents have no idea we are currently under the most severe drought in over 25 years. From June/July of 2012 to the current week (Mar 19, 2013), Most of the U.S. and almost all of the Midwest has been under drought. Corn yields in fall of 2012 fell sharply and prices rose sharply. Soy was adversely affected also. Livestock feed is largely composed of corn and soy, so feed prices rose also. Producers of meat and poultry culled their livestock in order to reduce feed costs. Meat, poultry, and dairy costs are expected to rise significantly in 2013. Additionally, the hay crops and open grazing lands have been harmed, causing further harm to meat producer feed sources.

hay-stocks

But the drought has continued through the winter. The winter wheat crop is now at risk. And the pasture lands and hay crops continue to suffer severely.

Most U.S. residents have no idea what is about to happen. If the drought continues through summer and fall, the food crisis of 2006 to 2008 will be nothing compared to the 2013 food crisis. The former barely affected U.S. consumers. The latter will affect us very noticeably.

But this post is about the effects on the hungry of the world. You see, the world agricultural system is a close-knit fabric; the economics of food and agriculture among all nations is interrelated. But certain nations, such as the U.S., produce a much larger proportion of agricultural products. This is due to the size of the nation and the productivity of its farmland. Thus, the severe U.S. drought is very likely to have an adverse effect on world commodity prices and on world food prices.

The push to use agricultural land to grow biofuel in the U.S. may have been the main cause of the 2006 to 2008 food crisis. The U.S. drought of 2012/2013 could easily have a greater effect, causing a greater amount of suffering among the world’s poor.

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