Publisher’s Letter: Fall 2012
By Jamie Lamonde | Photo By Jim Klousia 0
The first half of this year was the hottest on record in U.S. history, with thousands of record high temperatures set. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about 63 percent of the contiguous United States was classified as experiencing moderate to extreme drought at the end of July. The USDA has designated more than 1,600 counties as disaster areas due to drought. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that the last time drought affected this large a land area was in December 1956.
If you’ve been following the news coverage about the drought, you know that all eyes are trained on the Midwest’s Corn Belt. In June, the USDA projected the largest corn harvest in U.S. history (376 million tons). But by July, their projection decreased by 12 percent and some predict the actual decline may be closer to 30 percent. Also in July, the price of corn exceeded $8 per bushel—an all time high—“taking the world into a new food price terrain,” according to Lester Brown, president of Earth Policy Institute. He also points out that “what happens to the U.S. corn crop, which accounts for nearly 40 percent of the global harvest, concerns the entire world.”
The three main grains of the world—corn, rice and wheat— are so heavily relied upon to feed the people of the world that a large decline in a single country’s harvest has a ripple effect across the world. Reduced supply and higher prices means poorer nations that rely on imported food are at risk of being unable to replenish their food supplies adequately.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index predicts global food prices will rise by 6 percent. This spike is attributed in large part to the United States’ drought and other major weather-related crop declines, such as Brazilian sugar and Russian wheat. At home, although the USDA’s food price forecast for 2012 remains unchanged at a 2.5 to 3.5 percent increase, their website notes that “the full extent of the drought and its effect on commodity prices are as yet unknown.”
Such far reaching impacts beg us to acknowledge vulnerability in our food system. Our heavy reliance on just a handful of crops puts us at greater risk when weather and natural disasters strike. This year’s drought underscores what we already know: diversity, regionalism and soilimproving organic farming practices are among the most critical solutions to creating a balanced, sustainable and fair food system.
We would like to thank everyone—the farmers, food producers, organizations and individuals— who work to restore balance in our food system. And during these tough times, we are especially grateful to our farmers for their endless hard work, endurance and spirit as they are at the front lines dealing with the drought every day.
In this issue, we celebrate the abundance of diversity and community with which we are so blessed in our region. We wish you and your family a beautiful season!
Publisher & Editor-in-Chief
Jamie has worked in the organic and sustainable lifestyle industry for more than a decade. She is a communications professional with a deep commitment to nurturing positive social change through values-driven, education-based public outreach. Through her work, she is committed to building bridges between family farmers and citizen-partners to change the food system for the better.
Jamie graduated from Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia, with a B.A. in English Literature. She lives in the beautiful Driftless Region of Southwest Wisconsin and continues to be inspired, and inspire others, through the organic and local food and farming movement.