Report predicts record global grain harvest despite U.S. drought

Source: Amanda Peterka, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2012

Global grain production is expected to hit record levels this year, despite the drought that gripped most of the Midwest, the Worldwatch Institute said in a report released yesterday.

Grain production will reach 2.4 billion tons in 2012, up 1 percent from last year’s levels, the environmental research organization said. Of that, global corn production is expected to reach 916 million tons, an increase of 4.1 percent from last year, according to the report, which used data from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

The increases are expected despite the Midwest drought that has prompted the Department of Agriculture to lower its U.S. corn harvest projections from a record 345 million tons to 274.3 million tons. Argentina’s corn crop is also down 11 percent this year, though Brazil’s increased 17 percent to a record high of 66 million tons.

The drought has prompted calls by lawmakers, governors and livestock groups for U.S. EPA to waive the federal renewable fuel standard, which mandates the country this year blend 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol into the fuel supply.

But the Worldwatch report found that, globally, grain uses for biofuels and other non-feed uses are expected to slow this year, increasing 1 percent from last year; between 2008 and 2009, that increase reached 8.2 percent. Grain used for animal feed, on the other hand, is expected to grow the fastest, up 2.1 percent from last year.

Overall, grain production has increased 269 percent since 1961.

Even as it projected high global production, Worldwatch also warned that this year’s Midwest drought will be felt in food prices worldwide and that food security is likely to become threatened by more extreme climatic events like droughts and floods in the future.

By 2050, 10-20 percent more people will suffer from hunger because of climate change, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

“The recent drought affecting the United States and the rest of the world show the need to reduce price volatility, move away from fossil fuel-based agriculture and recognize the importance of women farmers to increase resilience to climate change,” said Danielle Nierenberg, a Worldwatch senior researcher and an author of the report.