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Bad weather raises concern over future food prices

August 22, 2011 |  5:26 pm

Corn Field Drought 
Corn futures rose Monday amid speculation that the recent rains in the Midwest won't be enough to ease drought conditions and boost farmers' yields.

Indeed, it has been a brutal year weather-wise for much of the country, particularly for the Midwest and Texas. In the spring there were floods, which made it difficult for farmers to get their crops planted in the ground.

This summer, heat waves have damaged crop fields, and intense droughts in Texas and Oklahoma have resulted in cattle dying and ranchers rushing to sell their animals, even if they took a loss. The extreme weather has raised concerns that a smaller-than-expected supply of corn, soybeans and other core commodity crops might ripple out and keep consumer food prices high in the coming months.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut its forecast for this year’s harvest and predicted that grain inventories, though still hitting record highs, would come in lower than previously expected. Among its estimates: Corn was forecast to hit 12.9 billion bushels, down from previous forecasts of 13.5 billion bushels.

Corn futures in Chicago rose 9 cents on Monday, closing at $7.20 a bushel for a September delivery. The price has jumped 21% from $5.96 a bushel on July 1, and is nearing the three-year high of $7.85 reached on June 9.


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-- P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: A corn crop failed to mature in a Texas field this July. A severe drought has caused most non-irrigated crops in the area to fail and forced farmers to abandon some fields to conserve their limited resources. Credit: Scott Olson / Getty Images