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Texas Wildfires Threaten Wheat Crop, Drive Food Prices Higher

Texas Wildfires Threaten Wheat Crop, Drive Food Prices Higher

This month, raging wildfires in Texas have killed two firefighters, burned over a million acres of land and threatened thousands of homes. Three years of record droughts throughout the state have left fields full of dry and dead vegetation, making fighting the spread of wildfire flames extremely difficult.

As firefighters from around the country and the National Guard continue to battle the many blazes scattered across the state, with no immediate end to the crisis in sight, the future looks bleak for Texas farmers. Many farmers’ fields were already damaged by drought, and now some crops have been further harmed by smoke or entirely destroyed by flame.  

Some agricultural experts are now predicting that Texas will lose two thirds of this year’s wheat crop to drought and fire. And Texas is not the only U.S. state suffering from widespread crop damage this spring; Kansas and Oklahoma are also dealing with serious drought conditions, while Iowa and Minnesota are facing predictions of major floods. 

Speculation that U.S. grain production will be unusually low this year drove wheat prices to a two-month high on Tuesday, which may have been good news for certain commodities speculators, but was bad news for pretty much everyone else on the planet.

Food prices worldwide have already been on the climb for several months, alarming international agencies that track the global economy. The World Bank recently reported that prices of basic food staples have risen 36% globally over last year.

Though some of the ongoing increase in the cost of food has been linked to increased global demand for expensive, energy-intensive dairy and meat, the food supply has been strained repeatedly over the last several years due to natural disasters linked to global climate change.

As I reported in November, last year, epic flooding in Pakistan and droughts and wildfires in Russia destroyed crops and drove food prices higher in 2010. In February of this year, typhoon-related flooding in Australia contributed to yet another spike in the price of grain.

All three of these historically unprecedented natural disasters–the floods in Pakistan, the wildfires in Russia and the storms in Australia–were linked by scientists to global climate change.

And the drought and wildfires now destroying crops and homes in Texas fit a pattern already predicted by climate scientists. A 2010 study by the National Resources Defense Council found that Texas would be one of many states faced with increasingly dry and barren conditions as global temperatures rise. 

It seems reasonable to conclude that, as climate change fuels larger and more devastating droughts, storms and floods across the globe, food prices will continue to rise right along with the global temperature. The only way to cool the overheated food market may be to stop overheating the Earth.

Related Posts:

Why World Food Prices Once Again Hit Record High

Climate Change Linked Disasters Push Food Prices Higher

The True Price of Chocolate

 

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USDA photo of a wildfire, public domain. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

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46 comments

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5:37PM PDT on May 15, 2011

scary

12:02AM PDT on Apr 28, 2011

THANKS 2 INFORM

5:26AM PDT on Apr 25, 2011

thanks for sharing

5:32PM PDT on Apr 24, 2011

My sympathies to the fire fighters families. This is a huge disaster, and only time can change the land and a lot of rain.
Food prices are getting scary alright!Up here in Western Canada, planting will be late because of the deep snow, that now has brought lakes in fields and the weather is not warming enough yet, but it has been said that farmers could still have good crops. Hope we don't get all the baseball size hail again this growing season, or early frosts.

7:30AM PDT on Apr 24, 2011

thanks for this post.

5:05AM PDT on Apr 24, 2011

The situation here in Texas is really grim. Many houses have burned and the loss of extensive habitat and animal life is surely depressing. The drought is severe and relentless. I find no "poetic justice" in this situation and take no comfort in chastising Gov. Perry...I am simply sad.

4:58PM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

Lightning starts fires, or a carelessly tossed cigarette from a passing car can reach the grass by the berm of the road or something and not snuff out. Sometimes someone can be trying to torch a valuable crop or two to jack prices for someone else. The redcoats took foxes in the fields, historically, and tied burning cattails or something to their tails and let the scared animals loose in Colonial grain fields in Revolutionary days. Whatever the bottom line about starting the fires is, we need to do something about early warning and getting off our fannies and putting the darned fires out in time. If someone does not like a certain farmer, perhaps they will miss his grain at their breakfast table yet. Not knowing it was his they let burn in their indifference.

12:55PM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

Thank you for sharing, as usual everything keeps going up except for pay checks

9:47AM PDT on Apr 23, 2011

Thank you for the article, Where are the goverment to help with this problem????

8:57PM PDT on Apr 22, 2011

This is worse than Katrina, where are the feds...again?

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