Despite terrible droughts in much of the nation and predicted continued price increases in grain, there will be plenty of food to eat in America and the supermarket price of beef should be way down.
American Farm Bureau Federation President Dean Kleckner, in Utah Monday to visit a 50-acre nursery and seed-distribution center in Lehi owned by NPI, one of the nation's leading plant biotechnology firms, said:"There are such huge stockpiles of grain in the United States that there is no danger of any serious shortages of corn, soybeans, wheat and other grains, but we do expect some production decreases in these commodities if the drought continues."
Kleckner, a northcentral Iowa corn, soybean and hog farmer, said the worst possible situation would be a 15 percent drop in wheat production, a 30 percent drop in soybeans and a 50 percent drop in corn. "We will still have enough feed for cattle, but the price will be higher."
Grain prices are already moving upward - not on the basis of any shortages, Kleckner said, since harvest time is weeks away - but simply because of speculations and expectations of poor harvests.
Some turkey farmers in Utah are reporting difficulty buying grain because the people they generally buy grain from are holding it in expectation that the price will continue to rise.
Kleckner said he doesn't believe the United States will need to import any wheat, corn or soybeans, even if there are poor harvests, because of the huge stockpiles of these commodities.
But, he said, countries may try to sell cheap grain to the United States and some farmers who buy grain may be tempted to buy from foreign markets to get cheaper prices.
The fruit and vegetable market should not be affected by the drought, Kleckner said.
"Beef prices should drop significantly. There has been a tremendous reduction in cattle prices lately. Prices are down at least $15 per 100 pounds. There are a lot of cows and steers being marketed now. Next week, if the price of beef doesn't drop in your supermarkets, you ought to ask the store managers why not.
"Slaughterhouses are buying cows now for $400 when they used to sell for $600 a few weeks ago."
He said one reason there is such a glut of cattle on the market is the fears cattlemen have of increased feed prices. "They are selling their cattle now so they won't have to continue feeding them."
The AFBF president said he has toured the nation's farms recently and said practically every rural area in the country is suffering in some measure from the drought.
"This is the worst drought I've seen or heard about since 1934 - so far. If we get above average rainfall in July and August, and I don't expect we will, then the farm picture will change and we'll get a good crop this year.
"It's simply a wait-and-see situation. You tell me what the weather will be in the next month or two and I'll tell you what grain prices will be," he said.
The drought is the most serious in North Dakota and eastern Montana, he said, and very bad in Minnesota and South Dakota. The rest of the Midwest has been hard hit in places, but in some areas rainfall has been adequate.
"The extreme heat that much of the Midwest is feeling now is compounding to make the drought even worse."
Kleckner said he hopes the federal government doesn't try to make any long-term changes in farm programs in response to the short-term problems caused by the drought.
"This is the worst time for a drought - in the midst of an election year. I'm afraid politicians will start crying that the sky is falling and propose all sorts of things. The political rain-makers will probably compete with each other to see who can promise the most."
He said his suggestion for Congress would be to "do something now to help farmers and don't play politics with the drought."
Kleckner said he is impressed with NPI's Lehi facility and said the future of American agriculture is tied to biotechnology.
"There have been a lot of scare stories about biotechnology, but the bugaboo is only slowing us down. If America doesn't move fast on biotech, the rest of the world will, and Japan, Europe and other nations will leave us behind.
"We'll either be developing our own biotechnology and selling it to the rest of the world or we'll watch the world pass us by and we'll be buying biotechnology from other countries."
NPI vice chairman G. Michael Alder said his company is building a modern new mushroom industry at Lehi, has developed a new green been that pulls off the plant easily without breaking the stalk, a fungus that is a biological fertilizer and a new natural insecticide that is produced by plants that have never been bothered by insects.