Wheat Crop Shows Extensive Damage from Winter Freeze and Drought; Kansas Crop Expected 18% Down from 2013

The Winter wheat crop in the central High Plains states shows extensive damage from drought and Winter freeze, according to a field tour inspection, reported May 1. In Kansas, the biggest U.S. wheat state, the harvest is expected to drop 18 percent from last year. Winter wheat is planted in the Autumn, over-winters, then is harvested in the late Spring.

Western Kansas has been severely affected. It lies in what has now become the “Duststorm Belt.” Just last week, a huge storm reached from there, southward across western Oklahoma, and into the Texas Panhandle. In Kansas, only 260.7 million bushels of wheat are expected this year in the state, down 18% from 319.2 million in 2013, and the smallest volume since 1996, which was a low year, due to late planting, dryness and a harsh Winter.

In Texas and Oklahoma, more than half the wheat crop is categorized by the US Department of Agriculture as poor, to very poor.

Meantime, major rail shipments delays continue in the Western states as Warren Buffett’s BNSF railroad rakes in bucks from hauling oil and fracking inputs, while stalling on moving the 2013 harvest and farming inputs.

Buffett laughed it off at his annual Berkshire Hathaway corporate meeting in Nebraska last week. His pre-meeting letter to shareholders stated, “America’s rail system has never been in better shape.”

On Monday, Reuters published a review of the disruptions to agro-industry from lack of timely rail shipping. For example, the trade group, United Sugars, said that slowdowns and disruptions in rail service, besides losing them money, may see part of the stranded sugar beet crop rot on the ground. Moreover, United Sugars, whose member firms supply a quarter of U.S. sugar consumption, “harbors grave concerns that BNSF will not be able to quickly resolve its service problems.”

New Report Documents Again: Hunger in the U.S. is Worsening

A new report by Feeding America, the largest network of food banks in the country, says that 49 million Americans are food insecure at this point. Approximately 16 million of them are children.

To reach that conclusion, the organization questioned more than 34,000 agencies that provided information about their services and programs, including food distribution and non-food, referral, or outreach services. More than 12,500 programs were visited, to survey clients. The data collection was concluded last August. “Map the Meal Gap 2014” is the most recent of the quadrennial reports financed mainly by the Howard G. Buffett Foundation (Warren’s son) and the ConAgra Food Foundation.

“Nothing is getting better,” said Craig Gundersen, lead researcher of the report and an expert in food insecurity and food aid programs. “Let’s stop talking about the end of the Great Recession until we can make sure that we get food insecurity rates down to a more reasonable level,” he added. “We’re still in the throes of the Great Recession, from my perspective.”

Children’s HealthWatch, a network of doctors and public health researchers who collect data on children up to 4 years old at five university hospitals and clinics across the county, recently reported that 29% of the households they track were at risk of hunger last year, compared with 25% the year before.

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