Fourteen states from Florida to Arizona are experiencing record high temperatures and a drought so severe it is being compared to the dust bowl of the 1930s. Texas has been particularly hard hit, with the hottest June on record and precipitation eight inches below average. As a result, Texas has lost approximately 30 percent of its wheat fields. Last month, every Texas county was designated a natural disaster area and qualified for federal relief for struggling farmers.
The drought will have wide-ranging impact. Beef prices may be the most effected. Livestock farmers whose grass has dried up cannot turn to wheat to feed their cattle because of higher wheat prices. Many of these cattle will be sent to slaughter early, potentially resulting in a short-term lowering of beef prices. Because of a depleted supply of cattle worldwide, however, beef prices may climb much higher after the temporary decrease.
Experts attribute the drought to the unusually high temperatures, low soil moisture and effects from La Niña in the Pacific Ocean, which has pushed the storm pattern in the U.S. farther north than is typical. To get a better idea of the severity of the drought, look at this map provided by the National Drought Mitigation Center.
The U.S. drought coincides with a drought in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia that has left millions in need of food aid. It also hits at time when world food prices are on the rise, partly due to crop shortages.