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Barely Half of America’s 2022 Corn Harvest in Healthy Condition

Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.
Published: August 21, 2022
Barely half of America's 2022 corn harvest is in good condition, USDA data shows.
A corn crop failed to mature in a field July 28, 2011 near Perryton, Texas. 2022 corn crop conditions, especially in Texas, are in as bad of shape as 2012, USDA data reveals. (Image: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The impact of massive, unrelenting drought and unstable weather is showing its face all over the world, rearing its head in everything from shipping and transport, to energy production, to a brewing and grave global food crisis.

Although over the years, Americans have primarily been accustomed to viewing economic calamity through a faraway lens, in 2022, the consequences have landed directly on U.S. soil.

One of the most recent missives on the topic is found in Aug. 15 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Crop Progress report for the farming industry, which disclosed that barely half of the nation’s 2022 corn fields are in “good” or “excellent” condition.

Specifically, the report lists crop conditions for the 18 states responsible for 92 percent of the 2021 U.S. corn bounty, from Colorado, to Texas, to Iowa, to Ohio.

Notably, the worst farers were Kansas and Texas, which had 44 and 46 percent of their state yields earmarked as in “very poor” or “poor” condition respectively.

Top performers are Illinois and Wisconsin, which have 73 and 78 percent of their crops in “good” or “excellent” condition respectively.

On average, 43 percent of corn crops among all 18 states have been rated as very poor, poor, or fair. The figure is up from 42 percent the previous week and 38 percent during the same period in 2021.

Farming industry publication Farm Journal stated that the data ties 2022’s crops with 2019’s for the worst week on record since 2012.

The United States is the world leader in corn production at 383 million tons annually, rivaled only by communist China, which claims to produce 272 million tons, according to industry analytics firm Gro Intelligence.

By comparison, the entire European Union produces slightly more than 70 million tons.

The condition of Texas crops is perhaps to be expected, based on last week’s USDA data analyzing the national cotton industry, where the agency heavily slashed future export outlooks based on severely decreased production and inventory.

The crux of the cotton report is not only that America is the world’s largest cotton exporter — and by a significant margin — but that roughly half of the country’s major and minor plantations are in drought-stricken Texas.

Market analytics website Barchart, which compiles its own forecast and yield productions exclusive of the USDA’s figures, were primarily on par with the agency’s data in an Aug. 16 update.

In an Aug. 18 report by Farm and Ranch Guide, President of Martinson Ag Risk Management, Randy Martinson, told the outlet that he “wouldn’t be surprised to see USDA have to cut the national corn yield one more time because of these poor conditions.” 

“Now, rain is coming in and it’s going to help a little, but it’s not going to save that crop. It’ll stop the deterioration, but it won’t heal what’s already been lost,” he added.

On Aug. 1, Gro Intelligence, using a machine learning algorithm, stated that current projections for the 2022 corn yield were lower than the USDA’s forecasts and “will remain at some of their tightest levels in nearly a decade.”

“With hot and dry conditions also depressing corn production in EU countries, and continued uncertainty around Ukraine grain exports, global corn supplies will decline in 2022/23 and contribute to food insecurity in many parts of the world already reeling from drought-induced crop shortfalls,” the firm added.

Notably, soil moisture is at its lowest recorded levels in a decade, Gro stated.

In an Aug. 12 article, Gro further noted that crops have been affected not only by recent drought, but by an early season waterlogging, “The US corn crop, which got off to a slow start due to overly wet weather, has been suffering from above-average temperatures and dryness.”

CBOT Corn Futures are trading up almost 11 percent over July’s lows, but are still back more than 27 percent from April’s highs when markets were rattled by the initiation of the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine.

The impact of inclement weather on one season’s crops is often not felt until late in the following season as demand exhausts current supplies and new harvests are required to refill coffers.

That phenomenon is being felt in Iowa’s potato industry, the country’s largest producer, which is enduring a record rise in potato prices this year.

The advent comes not from this year’s growing conditions, which likewise got off to a slow start amid cool and wet weather, but are expected to finish with a strong rebound, but from last year’s crushing heat and drought caused by the high pressure heat dome phenomenon that plagued the region.