Cover Story

Our parched land

"Our parched land" Continued...

Issue: "Praying for rain," Aug. 11, 2012

Products made from soybeans, like vegetable oil, margarine, salad dressing, and even doughnuts (fried in the oil) are likely to increase slightly in cost by the end of the year and into 2013. That follows a year of above-average food inflation in 2011, when grocery store prices ticked up nearly 5 percent.

With the 2012 harvest not yet gathered and counted, it's too early to tell how high the drought may drive corn and soybean prices, Alexander said. One thing is for sure: The record prices will ripple around the globe. "The U.S. is the world's largest exporter of corn," said Alexander. "If we have a bad corn crop ... that has a big impact on other countries."

Expensive corn and soybeans played a role in the food crisis of 2007 and 2008, when hungry citizens rioted in Haiti, Bangladesh, and several African nations. Anger over expensive food also contributed to the launch of "Arab Spring" revolutions.

Back in Syracuse, Ind., Roberts' concerns got some relief on July 19, when a 2.5-inch downpour-the largest all season-answered his prayers for rain. He was happy to see the rain fall, but regretted it hadn't come in June.

"This really isn't enough to cure the problem. It's a really good Band-Aid for now, though."

Daniel James Devine
Daniel James Devine

Daniel is a reporter for WORLD who covers science, technology, and other topics in the Midwest from his home base in Indiana. Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanJamDevine.

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