WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
The drought scouring the farming heartlands of the United States is the worst for at least 25 years, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said July 18, after briefing President Barack Obama.
Vilsack revealed that 78 percent of U.S. corn and 11 percent of soybean crops had been hit, and compared the situation to a 1988 drought that cut production by 20 percent and cost the economy tens of billions of dollars. “This will result in significant increases in prices for corn. We’ve seen a 38 percent increase since June 1 in the price of a bushel of corn. A bushel of beans has risen 24 percent,” Vilsack said.
The secretary said the government had increased the number of territories designated as drought disaster zones, bringing the total to 1,297 counties in 29 states, where farmers will be eligible for assistance. The United States is the world’s biggest producer of corn and soybeans, and the caution came as some farmers warned they may be forced to harvest crops early to sell the stalks off cheaply as animal feed.