Midwest Corn Shortage Likely to Impact Consumers in Hampton Roads

Posted at 7:32 PM, Jul 15, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-15 19:33:56-04

Drought conditions and record heat continue to grip much of the Midwest this summer.  Many areas have seen little to no rain over the past several days, if not weeks, which is affecting farmers and their crop significantly.  Corn has taken a big hit from Mother Nature.  The dry weather has stunted the growth of many corn stalks, and if that wasn’t enough, corn yields are some of the lowest they’ve been in at least a decade according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  As a result, this corn shortage is causing the price of corn to increase for farmers, which will eventually hurt consumers in their wallets in the near future.

Some of the corn grown in the Midwest is used to feed livestock, like cattle and swine.  Why is that important?  Well, when the price of corn goes up, it costs more to feed these animals.  And when it costs more to feed the livestock, it typically costs consumers more money to buy certain products at the supermarket.  “This creates a domino effect.  However, our food prices shouldn’t see an immediate increase,” said Glenn Slade, Surry County Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent.  Slade was one of three extension agents with the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office I spoke to about the impact the corn shortage in the Midwest will have on consumers here in Hampton Roads.

“Even with the increased productivity of farms today with advanced technology and seed, we are still tied to Mother Nature to provide conducive weather for growing crops,” said Watson Lawrence, Agriculture Extension Agent and Unit Coordinator in Chesapeake.  Lawrence said farmers typically have one shot every year when it comes to their corn crop, which is all dependent on the weather.  “This is serious for everyone because agricultural prices affect such a large number of products we consume,” said Lawrence.

So what products are expected to cost more at the supermarket?  Chris Drake, Extension Agent of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Southampton County, says we will likely see a rise in the price of corn based products, like oils, cereals and flour, but not to the point of being unaffordable.  “Also, meat prices due to higher feed prices may be higher as well, but you will not see these changes in the market place until six to nine months after the harvest,” said Drake.

It is too early to tell how much of an increase we will see in food prices at our local supermarkets for now.  However, if weather conditions do not improve in the Midwest soon, we will likely have to spend more money on the products we enjoy eating.

Sources: CBS, CNN, CNBC