Drastically reduced rainfall and triple-digit temperatures throughout much of the nation have damaged corn and other crops, which will have significant impacts on supplies and prices for animal feed, livestock, meat and dairy products, and processed grain products, including ethanol. The drought has also disrupted the transportation of some commodities, such as petroleum and coal, that are delivered by barges on the Mississippi River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reported groundings of traffic along the Mississippi River due to low water depths, and NOAA has stated that portions of the Mississippi River south of Memphis are below the 1988 low-water level. Droughts can also create reliability concerns for electric power plants. Increased temperatures drive demand for electricity to cool homes and businesses, but lower water levels can affect the operation of many thermoelectric power plants.
The U.S. Drought Monitor, a joint publication of USDA and NOAA, is currently reporting that large areas of the Midwest and Great Plains regions are experiencing significant drought conditions. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), integrating Drought Monitor data with weather forecasting, is predicting that the drought conditions will remain mostly unchanged through the end of November.