Hot 5: Midwest Drought 2012. Corn Usage Pie Charts. Vilsack Comic. CC Precipitation Maps. Faraday Porteur.

1. Midwest Drought 2012

MODIS Map via NASA Satellite
The above photo is a vegetation anomaly map based on data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. The map contrasts plant health in the central United States between June 25 and July 10, 2012, against the average conditions between 2002 and 2012. Brown areas show where plant growth was less vigorous than normal; cream colors depict normal levels of growth; and green indicates abnormally lush vegetation. Data was not available in the gray areas due to snow or cloud cover. The image is based on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), a measure of how much plant leaves absorb visible light and reflect infrared light. Drought-stressed vegetation reflects more visible light and less infrared than healthy vegetation.

The most severe damage to crops appears to be centered on Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota. Crops in much of the upper Midwest—southern Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, southern Illinois, western Kentucky, and western Tennessee—also show signs of strain. States in the Mountain West that are in the midst of a busy wildfire season—Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado—have also experienced marked declines in the health of vegetation. The drought has been less severe in Iowa, a key corn-growing state.

According to a recent IPCC report on extreme weather, there is “medium confidence” that droughts have grown longer and more severe in some parts of the world since 1950, particularly in southern Europe and West Africa. However, the trends appear to be the reverse for droughts in central North America and northwestern Australia. Overall, the scientists who prepared the IPCC report assert a medium level of confidence in their ability to attribute observed changes in drought patterns to human activity.

source: NASA


PBS Newshour 7/17/2012

2. Graphics Showing the Breakdown of Corn Use in the United States Plus the World’s Major Corn Importers and Exporters

The United States produced 36 percent of the world’s corn in 2011 (that percentage has been steadily falling). Last year’s corn crop in the U.S. was worth $76.62 billion at an average price per bushel of $6.20. Due to this year’s drought, traders are expecting a corn yield under 140 bushels per acre as compared to a final average yield of 147 last year. Serbia, Argentina, and Kazakhstan will also have reduced corn crops this year due to weather. Increased production is expected from the EU, Brazil, and Canada.

I put together these three graphics to help us understand where the give and take will have to occur due to a reduced global corn crop. Livestock producers will bear the brunt of the drought and are not protected by crop insurance. At the present time, feedlots may be losing $200 per head on liquidated cattle. Over the next few months beef prices will head lower before they go up. Substitution of corn by alternative crops for feed will be part of the scenario.

Seven percent of ethanol produced was exported last year (if my calculation was correct) and about 30 percent of the processed corn from ethanol production is recycled back into use as feed for livestock.

Here in the U.S. it is estimated that a 50% increase in the price of field corn might raise the cost of food by one percent. The price we pay to the farmer for our overly processed and packaged food in this country is a small percent of our food costs even though some say that corn is present in 75 percent of our foods.

Note that these next two charts show what was anticipated for the marketing year beginning 10/01/11 and ending 9/30/12. Because of the drought, these will change.

Pie Chart Showing Breakdown of Top Corn Importers

Pie Chart Showing Breakdown of Top Corn Exporters

3. Vilsack’s Whitehouse Speech Parody

4. U.S. Precipitation Map Changes (Year 2030) Under Four Different Climate Change Models

This month, for what it’s worth, the USDA has come out with a publication titled “Agricultural Adaptation to a Changing Climate – Economic and Environmental Implications Vary by U.S. Region” [pdf here]. I’ve excerpted the four model’s precipitation pattern change maps (below). How much they vary from one another is quite remarkable and stands as a message itself. The one showing temperature changes is also worth reviewing.

Change in annual precipitation (millimeters), from the baseline under the four climate change scenarios

5. The Faraday Porteur Electric Bike

Sorry Ag-news-junkies. I know this is off-topic but I’m a connoisseur of cool bicycles and smart energy efficient solutions.

This is a lithium ion battery electric assist bicycle that is being perfected after winning a bike design competition. It is a steel frame commuter bicycle that is made in the U.S.A. One 45-minute charge gives you ten to fifteen miles of pedal-assisted riding and offers the safety of high intensity LED lights for night-time rides. I like how unobtrusive the battery is.

This is a kickstarter project.

6 thoughts on “Hot 5: Midwest Drought 2012. Corn Usage Pie Charts. Vilsack Comic. CC Precipitation Maps. Faraday Porteur.

  1. Thomas Edgar

    You have a concepts that collects information around the ag theme that really meets a need. Congratulations. It should be easy to be more comprehensive, however. For example Nichlos Kristof’s article on agricultural projects in Africa a week ago (from NY Times), evidently did not make your cut. Why? If I depend on you, how do I know that I am not missing something.

    1. K.M. Post author

      If you are a new reader here, then, welcome.

      As for an article that didn’t make the cut, let me try to explain. First of all, I’ve changed my news style a lot since I started, trying constantly to improve this site for readers. I previously posted many more news links than I do now. Guess what? Readers really don’t like that. So, now what I do is read, and read, and read, and then at the end of the week I pick the items that I feel are NEW news for the most part or which I feel are better than ordinarily written from a knowledgeable writer. If a reader hasn’t followed me for a long time they may not understand why I don’t cover the same items over and over, but I don’t. You will see many items here first, and ahead of MSM’s coverage of them. Like that farm video that just went viral.

  2. Joe

    “…30 percent of the processed corn from ethanol production is recycled back into use as feed for livestock.”

    Wondering where this stat came from and if you have any idea what happens to the other 70%?


    1. K.M. Post author

      Yes, I stated that in a very unconventional way. Thanks for asking because many would probably want that clarified.

      I was trying to be fair to the Ethanol industry who wants credit for DDGS product which is a by-product of ethanol. An ethanol plant’s product is one-third ethanol, one-third carbon dioxide (captured for industrial use), and one-third animal feed called distillers grains. For every bushel (56 pounds) of corn, an ethanol plant produces 17 pounds of distillers grains. At 2.8 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn, an ethanol plant delivers six pounds of distillers grains per gallon of ethanol it makes.

      They are continually trying to tweak the process to add value to the system, most recently by producing corn oil, too, for sale which has removed some of the oil from the DDGS as I understand it.

  3. fred schumacher

    It should be noted that a bushel of corn, at equilibrium moisture content, contains one gallon of water, leaving 48 pounds dry matter to start with. Ethanol is classic value added processing, occurring in rural areas rather than cities as is the norm. It’s a two-for, providing a higher value product, ethanol, while at the same time retaining part of its most common usage, livestock feed, in the form of distillers grains. Corn is a low-protein grain, but since protein is not a part of the ethanol process, protein is concentrated in the remnant distillers grains, allowing for a reduction in the need of high protein supplement, such as soybean meal. Cattle gain weight faster on distillers grains than straight unprocessed corn.

    Ethanol started out as a way to use damaged and unmarketable corn. Back when corn prices were low and railroad hopper cars were in short supply, huge piles of corn left exposed on the ground were a common sight. When pollution reducing oxygenators were mandated for fuel, ethanol got its major boost. Functionally, when accounting for distillers grains, ethanol uses up one-fourth of total corn production. Corn production has gone up because ethanol has provided a new market. If that market were suddenly to disappear, through government action, this country would, once again, be left with unmarketable surplus production to deal with, the same situation as triggered the initial ethanol industry.

    Grain farmers and livestock producers have always been in conflict. They have mutually exclusive needs. Livestock feeders want low feed grain prices, while farmers want high. The states that have been asking for ethanol mandate relief are low-producing, high-using states. They account for less than 4% of U.S. corn production. In a drought year, high prices are essential for maintaining the economic viability of farms. If government takes action to reduce prices, the ability of farmers to produce a crop in the coming year will be severely reduced. Farming is a high cash-flow industry. Farmers have switched to a production methodology called Maximum Economic Yield (MEY). If cash flow is reduced, farmers will adjust their production to deliver maximum net return to themselves, not maximum yield for the market. The EPA is quite conscious of this process and has entered it into their decision making.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>