Even though crops may fail again, landowners are shielded by taxpayers from the full burden of their bad bets.
Drought helped drive the cost of crop insurance to a record $17.2 billion, the US Department of Agriculture said April 29. The government covers more than 60 per cent of payouts, spending about seven times more than a $1.4 billion program that helps farmers adapt to climate change.
The subsidies encouraging farmers to ignore addressing extreme weather are harder to justify when automatic budget cuts remove 5 per cent from most US programs and lawmakers prepare to craft a new five-year farm law.
“We have given farmers incentives to take on more risk rather than give them an incentive to create a permanent solution,” said Vincent Smith, a professor of agricultural economics at Montana State University in Bozeman. “You want to move toward programs that allow them to alleviate problems before the fact.”
Disaster declarations by the USDA have become commonplace over the past decade, as farmers face the disruption of traditional growing seasons.
Thursday’s report by dozens of scientists from five different federal agencies looked into why forecasters didn’t see the drought coming. The researchers concluded that it was so unusual and unpredictable that it couldn’t have been forecast.
"This is one of those events that comes along once every couple hundreds of years," said lead author Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Climate change was not a significant part, if any, of the event."
Winter snow storms not enough to recharge soil and aquifers to end historic drought. 2013 drought forecast looking grim.
The historic drought that laid waste to America’s grain and corn belt is unlikely to ease before the middle of this year, a government forecast warned on Thursday.
The annual spring outlook from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted hotter, drier conditions across much of the US, including parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, where farmers have been fighting to hang on to crops of winter wheat.
The three-month forecast noted an additional hazard, however, for the midwest: with heavy, late snows setting up conditions for flooding along the Red and Souris rivers in North Dakota.
"It’s a mixed bag of flooding, drought and warm weather," Laura Furgione, the deputy director of NOAA’s weather service told a conference call with reporters.
Last year produced the hottest year since record keeping began more than a century ago, with several weeks in a row of 100+degree days. It also brought drought to close to 65% of the country by summer’s end.
The cost of the drought is estimated at above $50bn, greater than the economic damage caused by hurricane Sandy. The drought area has now fallen back somewhat to 51% of the country.
But even the heavy snowfalls some parts of the country have seen were not enough to recharge the soil, the NOAA scientists said.
Via The Guardian
Strong reporting on how U.S. farmers cannot adapt to more big droughts like the one of 2012. Insurance companies covered billions in losses last year, but if 2013 is as bad as 2012, portfolios may shift to safer options.
US farmers are bracing for long-term challenges from climate change including blasting heat and more capricious rainfall.
About 80 percent of the farmland in the world’s biggest soybean and corn (maize) producer was scorched by extreme heat and drought last summer, savaging crops and sending global prices for the key food commodities soaring, hurting poor countries that depend on imports.
Across the heartland of the corn crop in the Midwest state of Iowa, farmers have turned a jaundiced eye on last season’s disaster to focus on this year’s weather conditions.
By early March, 53 percent of the land was still abnormally dry or suffering drought.
But as more and more accept that the climate is changing, farmers are putting their faith in technology to help them beat global warming…
Insurers compensated the losses with a record $14.7 billion in payouts — enough to allow farmers to get ready for a new season.
Via Global Post
He subtly makes the case to adapt rivers and ports to climate change.
President Obama said Tuesday that federal investments in waterway maintenance will be vital as drought fueled by climate change creates problems for barges bringing goods out of the Midwest.
Obama, during a meeting of the President’s Export Council, noted recent problems moving goods when last year’s major drought lowered water levels in the Mississippi River.
“Recently we had the challenge of … getting goods from the Midwest down the Mississippi when the water started going down,” Obama said.
He said the upcoming White House budget proposal would seek to address maintenance needs.
“And if in fact temperatures are warming — I know this is not our climate change meeting — but I think we can anticipate that we may end up having some challenges in terms of managing our waterways well, whether or not we can continue to use barges to move a lot of product out of the American heartland to ports around the world, that is going to depend on our infrastructure,” Obama said.
“So we are going to, in our budget, continue to push Congress to see if we can essentially deal with deferred maintenance,” he added in emphasizing the importance of waterway and port infrastructure.
The president touched on climate change very briefly during wide-ranging remarks about U.S. export and trade policy.
I knew there was drought in MN, but didn’t know how fast it could affect infrastructure. Should be a boon for construction and engineers in the coming years.
Homeowners are learning that when soil dries up, it shrinks — so foundations shift, twisting and cracking the houses on top of them.
Five contractors contacted by the Pioneer Press said their foundation-repair business increased 25 percent to 100 percent in 2012.
"Business has exploded," said John Newman, co-owner of RamJack Minnesota, based in Norwood.
The cost is not usually covered by insurance, because the damage is blamed on an “act of God.”
The U.S. Drought Report, cited on the state Department of Natural Resources website, said that as of Jan. 24, more than 80 percent of Minnesota was experiencing severe or extreme drought.
Precipitation was more than 7 inches below normal in much of central Minnesota from last August through the end of January.
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