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Continuing Drought, Heat Bring Fear of Global Food Crisis

Common Dreams staff

The continuing drought and record heat leaving parched crops in their wake have pushed corn and soy prices to historic highs as farmers and analysts suggest the consequences could be widespread and include spikes in global food prices.

Areas of Illinois and Iowa, the nation's top corn and soy producers, continue to sizzle with some areas in the 100s with little hope for much-needed rain.  Jason Nicholls, meteorologist for AccuWeather, said the areas might see "Only isolated rains, no drought buster."

"It will be cooler on Friday but the heat will be back for the weekend into early next week. The 11- to 15-day forecast shows the ridge moving west over the Rockies so that may help cut back on the heat, but there is still no significant rain in sight," Nicholls said.

Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) corn and soybean are both at record highs on Thursday,

Illinois corn farmer Steve Gartner points to parched roots of his corn crops six feet down, and says this situation is even worse than what is depicted. "It’s worse I think than the markets have realized, and it’s going to have huge implications, not just for us, but for prices in the grocery stores and many things we’re not even thinking of," Gartner said.

Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell of the Center for Climate and Security say those implications are global.

"As a leading exporter of corn and soy, the U.S. is intricately linked to the global food market," they write.  "Drought and crop failure in the U.S. could spike world food prices and have serious implications for places like Mexico, China, Central America and India, who rely heavily on imports of these crops, as well as animal feed."

Femia and Werrell say that this is part of "the globalization of hazards" and could have far reaching consequences.  "What we've seen is that spikes in world food prices have increased the likelihood of instability and riots. In some instances, crop failure in one part of the world is associated with instability halfway around the globe, can contribute to serious diplomatic crises between the U.S. and its allies -- as occurred with Egypt -- and could conceivably result in U.S. military involvement."

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