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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
This year’s drought is beginning to take a toll on building’s foundations. Heather Bain’s home in Moberly has been affected by the drought. Her home is in need of foundation repairs. After the lack of rain the clay is shrinking leaving her dry wall cracking, her doors sticking and the trim no longer meets the floor.
Heavy rains from Hurricane Isaac provided relief to some – but not all – farmers and ranchers in the drought-stricken Midwest, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor’s weekly report, which came out on Thursday.
Currently, the USDA expects the prices of beef, pork, poultry and dairy to shoot up five percent next year. You can blame the drought for a lot of that increase as this summer a lot of small livestock producers are struggling just to stay in business.
A version of this story ran on KBIA's Business Beat, a weekly program about business and economics in mid-Missouri.