Spring 2013 Water Seminar Series - "The U.S. Drought of 2012: Once-in-a-Generation Crop Calamity"
The Drought of 2012 was a multi-billion dollar agricultural disaster in the United States. This year’s drought was on par with the drought of 1988, which—according to the National Climatic Data Center—caused $77.6 billion (based on the 2012 Consumer Price Index cost-adjusted value) in mostly agricultural losses. Historically, the U.S. drought of 2012 attained similar areal coverage as the U.S. drought of the 1950s, although the 1950s drought was marked by multiple years of extreme heat and precipitation shortfalls in parts of the country. Among row crops, 2012 losses were most substantial for grain corn (maize). Pre-drought estimates from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) indicated an expected U.S. corn yield of 166.0 bushels per acre and production of 14.79 billion bushels. By January 2013, those estimates had dropped to 123.4 bushels per acre and 10.80 billion bushels—reductions of 26 and 27 percent, respectively. Another U.S. agricultural sector adversely affected by the drought of 2012 was the livestock industry. According to analysis by USDA, more than three-quarters (76 percent) of the domestic cattle inventory was located in drought at the height of the 2012 drought. USDA also reported that U.S. rangeland and pastures were rated 59 percent in very poor to poor condition for five consecutive weeks in August-September 2012—the highest such percentage ever recorded.
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