It may have been pushed out of the headlines this week, but the worst drought in 50 years is still spreading across the U.S. At least moderate levels of drought have now enveloped more than 64 percent of the country. That's bad news for farmers -- and for gardeners!
Americans spent $29 billion on their gardens last year, according to the National Gardening Association. And the drought is forcing many people to make some hard and expensive horticultural choices.
Our Adam Allington reports for Marketplace.
Standing outside the Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-Op in Little Falls, Minn., there's not a lot going on. The pungent smell of fermentation that typically hangs in the air here is absent. And trucks piled high with corn are nowhere to be seen.
They're idled in part because of high corn prices. And it's unclear when that will change.
"Most of the industry is just breaking even in terms of profitability or actually running at slightly negative margins," says Geoff Cooper, vice president of research and analysis at the Renewable Fuels Association.
Our friends at WNYC have put together this interactive, near-real-time map of the storm's progress, so you can watch for yourself as the welcomed moisture makes its way from the Gulf Coast to our Gateway City.
More than a third of the state is in D4, or exceptional drought, the worst category. That area covers the Boot-heal and a swath of western Missouri from Kansas City down to around Springfield. The rest of the Show-Me State is in extreme drought (D3), the second-worst category. NDMC Climatologist Mark Svoboda says Missouri can expect a brief reprieve next week.
This summer's drought has hit more than half the states in the country. Crops are suffering, but farmers might not be. Most farmers have crop insurance.
U.S. taxpayers spend about $7 billion a year on crop insurance. It's our largest farm subsidy.
And this subsidy goes in part to farmers — who will tell you themselves they aren't so sure about the whole idea. "I have an aversion to it," says Jim Traub, a corn and bean farmer in Fairbury, Illinois. "But you're not going to turn it down."
The Mississippi River has had a wild 12 months. This time last year, the river was at flood level. These days, it's near historic lows. From Illinois southward, the low water levels are affecting commerce, tourism, and just everyday life. The biggest impact may be on shipping, as businessman Larry Daily of Bettendorf Iowa .