If you’re not a farmer, it might not occur to you to think about drought in January. What’s growing these cold, snowy days anyway? Well, winter wheat, for one, which is planted in fall, harvested early summer and responsible for 70 percent of the United States’s wheat crop. Technically winter wheat is dormant right now and should wake back up in spring to keep growing. But it still needs rain. From the article: “‘About 30 percent of the winter wheat in central Kansas has already failed, with further damage likely unless there is rain.’”
In the U.S., there’s probably not too much to worry about in terms of our pocketbooks. The bread at the grocery store will probably be about the same retail price in 2013. It’s in the developing world, where Heifer works, that price hikes in commodity crops can quickly and significantly raise food prices. When you’re poor and depend on wheat as your largest dietary staple, there are rough times ahead.
Helping farming families diversify what they grow is an important component of our work at Heifer International. We aim to help families build resiliency against external “shocks” exactly like this. Families raising their own protein sources and multiple varieties of nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits are much less likely to struggle when commodity crop prices raise beyond what’s affordable. Families who are able to grow more than they consume are in an even better position to both earn additional income with the surplus and help their neighbors who may be struggling.