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Our View: Last year saw the most widespread drought

Published: Monday, Jan. 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Last year saw the most widespread drought the United States has seen since the 1950s.

The effect the weather had on crop production helped to heighten many people’s awareness of just how dependent our country is on farmers’ ability to produce enough crops and livestock to keep the rest of us fed.

With our population over 300 million and the weather continuing to be unpredictable – this winter so far is on pace to set a record for lack of snow – the ability of farmers and bio-engineers to roll with what mother nature throws at them will remain critical.

Much of that critical work is happening here in DeKalb County, where there are 930 farms, about 1,500 farmers and 1 in 6 people are employed in the agricultural industry, the DeKalb County Farm Bureau says. Eighty-eight percent of DeKalb County is farmland.

Our area’s farmers are also a great example of the progress already made. In the last serious drought in DeKalb County, in 1988, DeKalb County produced about 96 bushels of corn an acre. In 2012, the DeKalb County Farm Bureau estimates the yield was 150 bushels an acre, 56 percent more than in 1988.

Much of that increased production despite poor conditions is due to advances in seed genetics, which produce drought-resistant plants. Farmers’ land management practices have also evolved and improved since then. There likely will be some increase in food prices this year, a hangover from the 2012 drought, but there appears to be little danger of a food shortage.

Our hope is that the coming growing season will be kinder than the one before, and there will be no need to worry. If the conditions continue to be difficult, we trust our county’s and our country’s farmers will find a way pull through.

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