drought 2012


The days of record high corn prices are gone, at least for now, and they’re only going to continue their decline, according to projections released earlier this month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. (PDF)

You can pin part of the blame on the 2012 drought, when corn hit an all-time high of $8.31 per bushel. The dry conditions made corn a limited commodity.

Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which we talk about important issues related to food production.

Peter Gray/Harvest Public Media

U.S. popcorn sellers took a big hit from the 2012 drought, which caused one of the worst popcorn harvests in recent memory. Crops not irrigated were decimated and low supplies continue to force local candy shops and giant movie theater chains alike to pay high prices for the golden grain, biting into their profit margin.

Hilary Stohs-Krause / NET

The two-day Emerging Issues in Agricultural Lending Symposium at MU ended Thursday. This is the second year for the symposium, which gathered a variety of agricultural lenders such as loan officers, credit analysists, regulators and board members.

The symposium brought in experts to speak to lenders on challenges the agriculture industry is currently facing and possible solutions.

Symposium Director Joe Horner says the symposium gives an opportunity for experts to share changes with lenders and for lenders to have a chance to share their ideas.

Adam Allington / St. Louis Public Radio

A University of Missouri plant scientist has launched a website that allows crop producers to track rainfall and the risk of nitrogen loss during the spring seasons. 

The 'Big Tree' beckons

Apr 10, 2013
Peggy Lowe / Harvest Public Media

The first day of spring doesn’t feel that way as John Sam Williamson and Chris Starbuck meet up on a county road outside Columbia, Mo.

Temperatures are below freezing and a cold wind is whipping along the flat land here on the Missouri River bottoms. Williamson, a farmer whose family has owned this land for six generations, tugs at the bill of his John Deere cap and Starbuck, a retired University of Missouri plant scientist, pulls his Arborist Society stocking cap further down over his ears.

Photo courtesy of Tim Reinbott.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will announce that it will fund a University of Missouri project focused on building drought resiliency through soil health.  

File / KBIA

Climatologists say recent rain and snowstorms are slowly easing the grip of the worst U.S. drought in decades. But the wet weather also is creating some potential headaches.

Photo courtesy of Poet Biorefining / KBIA

Seventeen ethanol plants nationwide have been idled since last June because of a scarcity of affordable corn due to the drought and a weak market for the corn-based fuel. On Friday, a plant in Macon, Mo., took the hit — and brought the number to 18. 

The northeast Missouri plant is temporarily halting operations as corn prices top $7 a bushel. It's one of 27 plants that Poet Biorefining owns nationwide, and was the first ethanol plant opened in Missouri in 2000. It has been producing 46 million gallons of ethanol per year since 2003.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service released its end-of-year Crop Production 2012 Annual Summary Friday.

Not surprisingly, the report revealed that corn and soy production took a beating last year due to the drought that is still ravaging farms all over the Midwest.

Hot summer sun
jetsandzeppelins / Flickr

If you're a Missourian and felt hot under the collar last year, there is good reason.

The National Weather Service says 2012 was the warmest year on record in St. Louis and Columbia, and was among the warmest in other cities.

St. Louis recorded an average temperature of 61.2 degrees for last year, a full 1.1 degrees higher than the previous mark set in 1921.

In Columbia, the average temperature of 59.4 degrees topped the 1938 record.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

For this edition of Field Notes — our first in 2013 — we decided to take a look back at last year’s biggest stories in agriculture.

File / KBIA

Holiday storms that pounded much of the nation with snow and rain did little to ease the overall grip of the worst U.S. drought in decades.

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows that about 61 percent of the continental U.S. remained in some form of drought as of Tuesday, down less than a percentage point from the previous week. That number has been above 60 percent largely since July.

More than 21 percent of the lower 48 states are in extreme or exceptional drought, the two worst categories. That's down slightly from the previous week.

This year's drought delivered a pricey punch to US aquaculture, the business of raising fish like bass and catfish for food. Worldwide, aquaculture has grown into a $119 billion industry, but the lack of water and high temperatures in 2012 hurt many U.S. fish farmers who were already struggling to compete on a global scale.

Mr. Muskrat / Flickr

2012 was a rough year for Missouri farmers battling severe drought and extreme heat, but some species of wildlife did well – specifically, turkeys, bobwhite quail and honeybees.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

This is the latest installment of Harvest Public Media’s Field Notes, in which reporters talk to newsmakers and experts about important issues related to food production.

For this edition of Field Notes, I spoke with Kevin Good, an analyst for the agriculture research firm CattleFax, about how the ongoing drought will affect the beef industry in 2013 and 2014. Good was one of the speakers at this year's Missouri Cattlemen's Association convention.

jungmoon / Flickr

In recent months, a fairly severe drought and a slowly recovering economy have thrown food businesses for a loop.

Coming up we’ll listen in on a conversation Abbie Fentress Swanson had with President Barack Obama’s top agriculture guy about the looming dip in corn exports. But first, some businesses have been able to weather the storm better than others. Jennifer Davidson has this report about one successful shop in West Plains.

Now, things aren’t so peachy for everyone in the food industry. Clearly.

Hot summer sun
jetsandzeppelins / Flickr

A new report shows that the nation's worst drought in decades is getting worse again, ending an encouraging five-week run of improving conditions.

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

While the U.S. remains the world’s biggest supplier of corn, American farmers will lose a portion of the global corn market this year.

The Midwest drought devastated the normally robust corn harvest, which has led to higher corn prices and plummeting corn stocks. In a normal year, the U.S. exports more than 1 billion bushels of corn to markets worldwide, but with low domestic supply it’s a tough year for corn exporters – the USDA predicts U.S. corn exports will be at a 40-year low this year.

Photo taken by Ed Henleben

I left my house in Columbia, Mo., at 5:30 a.m. Thursday to make it to the Ingram Barge Co.'s Upper Mississippi River office by 8:30 am. I knew the three-hour drive had been worth it when I pulled up to the barge company’s office because the sturdy grey structure actually sits IN the Mighty Mississippi. I walked across an anchor barge that doubles as a pedestrian bridge to enter the office and passed by the R. Clayton McWhorter, a 45-foot tall, 140-foot long towboat with four decks.


Corn prices hit record highs this past August when they soared to over $8 a bushel, in large part because the drought hammering U.S. farms decimated corn stocks. Such prices were a windfall for Midwest farmers who actually had corn to sell. But could high corn prices hurt farmers if they drive buyers looking for cheaper grain and feed to South American farms?

Abbie Fentress Swanson/Harvest Public Media

To dock or not to dock? That is the question.

Well, that’s the question some Midwest dairy farmers are debating now that the National Milk Producers Federation has taken a stand against the widespread practice of cutting off cow tails -- or tail docking. It started decades ago as a method to stop the spread of disease because the tails often becomes slimed with manure. Recent studies suggest the practice isn't necessarily effective, but many dairy farmers still employ the technique to avoid a face full of slimy cow tail.

Help us map the drought

Sep 26, 2012

The skies have been cloudy this week but a little rain can't erase the effects of this last summer's drought, widely considered to be the worst in decades. Like most things, some fare better than others and some even worse. Help us map the drought What does your farm and rangeland look like? How has your year been? Are you going to survive the drought? Send us some details and a picture by clicking below.

Crop, livestock price increases drive up rent costs

Sep 25, 2012
Eric Durban / Harvest Public Media

It cost more to rent an acre of cropland or pasture land in 2012, according to new figures from the USDA.

The average cost to rent an acre of cropland in Missouri went up by 4 percent. Pastureland increased by 10 percent.

Ron Plain is an agricultural economics professor at the University of Missouri. He says rental rates and a land’s market value are both tied to the value of what is being produced on that land.

Pumping gas
File Photo / KBIA

There’s a new kind of gas on the market, with more ethanol in it than the gas we usually put in our cars. That’s beneficial for corn farmers who grow the corn that ethanol is made from and want more of it in your gas. But while the ethanol industry fought for years to bring this fuel to the market, now that they’ve won… good luck finding it. Even in Corn Country, pickings are slim.

Low feed means more hogs sent to market

Sep 19, 2012
USGS / Wikimedia Commons

The gravel road leading to Harrison Creek Farms is sandwiched between one field of withering corn, and one field of stunted soybeans. The drought has hurt farmers like Kenny Brinker who owns Brinker Farms and Harrison Creek Farms in Auxvasse, Mo.

“The hog farm we have here in Callaway County is what you call your standard feral to finish operation," he says. "We own the hogs ourselves."

Pumping gas
File Photo / KBIA

Head to your local filling station and you might see a new blend of gas at the pump. After a three-year regulatory process, the Environmental Protection Agency approved E15 – gas made with 15 percent ethanol – this summer.

Most gas we pump is already blended with ethanol, sometimes it contains as much as 10 percent, but the ethanol industry fought hard to bring E15 to the market. For ethanol backers and the farmers who feed the ethanol industry, getting drivers to pump gas with 50 percent more ethanol is a big win.

Map by Abbie Fentress Swanson (Harvest Public Media). Data submitted by farmers and livestock producers through the Public Insight Network.

Parts of the Midwest got a reprieve from the drought this week, according to the latest US Drought Monitor report released on Thursday. The report found that last weekend’s cold front brought up to five inches of rain to southeastern Missouri, eastern Illinois and central Indiana.

CraneStation / Flickr

Growing across the Midwest is a strain of hybrid corn that should perform well under the driest conditions. Harvest Public Media’s Rick Fredericksen says this summer’s parched farmland is providing an ideal test.

Drought-resistant corn faces real-life test

Sep 12, 2012
Peter Blanchard / Flickr

The sub-par corn harvest of 2012 is coming in early, after the worst growing conditions in more than 2 decades.

“We’ve been really dry all summer," farmer Bill Simmons says. "I talked to an older gentleman some time ago that said he had taken  47 crops off of his farm and this was about the worst that he’d ever seen it."

Simmons is combining 13-hundred acres of corn on the Clan Farm outside Atlantic, Iowa. Multiple varieties were planted, but one field turned out to be especially interesting: a 300-acre section devoted to AQUAmax, a new drought-resistant product from DuPont Pioneer.