Drought affects crops at ASU, throughout world
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2012 18:09
The effects of the drought that Arkansas has experienced this year are becoming evident in many areas of the state as well as other parts of the world.
“This year’s drought is one of the highest droughts on record since the 1930s,” said Paul Armah, professor of agricultural economics.
Armah said Arkansas experienced its worst drought, called the “Dust Bowl,” in 1930. He said this year’s drought will also greatly impact not only the state of Arkansas but all countries in the world.
“Since July 2012, food prices have already risen by six percent, according to FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] food price index,” Armah said.
He said this summer’s little rain and hot weather caused the drought.
The professor said the effects of the drought in Arkansas are less than ones in the Midwest such as Illinois, Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri.
“Farmers in the Midwest have experienced the worst impact from the drought because they depend on rain more than farmers in Arkansas who depend on ground water to irrigate their farms,” Armah said.
He said the ground is different in Arkansas compared to states in the Midwest because Arkansas ground can store rainwater better than the ground in the Midwest.
Nevertheless, Arkansas faced a serious situation since the Arkansas economy heavily depends on agriculture commodities such as rice, wheat, corn, soybeans and cotton.
“The drought has reduced outputs of agricultural commodities,” Armah said. “It will also affect incomes of farmers and the economy of Arkansas.”
He said agriculture amounts to 17-20 percent of Arkansas’ economy, which is the largest part of Arkansas economy. Also, “it has the highest employees in Arkansas’ economy,” Armah said.
The Arkansas export also heavily depends on agriculture commodities. Agriculture amounts to 27-33 percent of Arkansas’ exports, and the drought will reduce a number of those, Armah said.
The drought affects farmers this season, but it will soon affect consumers as well. Armah said consumers next year would see more impact in prices because areas hit by the drought couldn’t stock agricultural commodities this year.
Scott Stiles, an extension economist of risk management at the College of Agriculture and Technology, commented on how the drought affects students’ daily lives.
He said the price of chicken has almost doubled over the past year and other popular food items with college students, such as corn chips and nachos also have increased in price.
“According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA], prices this year are the highest on record for both chicken and corn,” Stiles said.
The USDA stated on July 25 that domestic food costs will rise three to four percent next year, and beef prices could rise as much as five percent.
“With gas prices still above $3, students on tight budgets may be more conservative as a result of higher food prices,” Stiles said. “They may even recall an economics lecture on ‘substitute goods’ and eat less steak and more hot dogs.”
Stephanie Overby, a junior agriculture major of Little Rock, said, “We have discussed the drought, along with peoples’ contemplation about whether or not this is global warming. All of my professors have agreed that we cannot base any ideas on this one season, as climate is measured by the century and weather is merely one point of time.”
She also said, “Working with farm animals, the drought has greatly impacted that aspect in my life due to the fact that there is basically no hay available to feed animals, and natural water resources were bone dry this summer.”
Overby said her job as a student majoring in agriculture is to keep the community informed of the situation and do its best to still provide agricultural services throughout the drought.
Ahmet Eralp Kurk, a junior animal science major of Istanbul, said, “The drought season affects food prices. Therefore, we are following food prices weekly and making a chart about increasing and decreasing of that.”
He said the global warming would be the serious issue related to the drought. “Now it’s hard to guess what’s going on tomorrow,” Kurk said. “My expectation is getting ready for every situation like droughts or floods.”
Robert Gordon, a senior interdisciplinary studies major of Jonesboro, said he also has felt extremely hot weather in Arkansas.
“I really enjoy being outside during the summer and with the weather being so abnormally hot, it prevented me from participating in outdoor activities,” Gordon said. “I’m concerned that the leaves won’t change colors this fall because usually when there is a dry summer, the leaves won’t be as colorful in the fall.”
“The farmers here in Arkansas have handled the problem through investments in irrigation,” Stiles said. “The use of irrigation is not as common across the ‘Corn Belt’ or Midwestern U.S. and farmers rely more heavily on crop insurance.”
The scarcity of food is also closely related to the population growth. Stiles said populations in the world grow wealthier and people consume more protein in their diets.
“I challenge ASU’s students to come up with solutions on how to feed and clothe 9 billion people by 2050,” Stiles said.