It is summertime in the United States and so hot dry weather is expected and normal, but according to new data the hot dry weather that many Americans are currently experiencing is not normal. In fact, this dry weather is part of the biggest drought in the USA since the 1950′s. So, what is a drought? A drought is a prolonged* period of abnormally** low precipitation*** and the shortage of water resulting from this lack of rain. The United States is not the only country experiencing a drought right now, that is for sure, but the current drought in the United States does have an impact around the world. This is why it is important to know a little more about this situation and some English vocabulary related to it.
A major reason that the drought in the United Stated is important to people around the world is that the area of the United States that is most affected by this current drought, the Midwest (see picture above – the Midwest is in red), is a major farming area in this country. Sometimes this area of the country is call the “Breadbasket” because this area of the country is known for growing grains like wheat and corn (used for making bread), but other crops**** like soy are also grown in this area. These crops are all common basic ingredients used for making many different foods. This is one reason that the current drought in the Midwest is important, not just to the many farmers in this region who are losing their crop, but also to people around the country and the world. A loss of crops means that the prices for foods that use these crops will go up. Higher prices for basic food products effects many people in the United States and beyond. So how much more expensive will food become because of this drought? According to one report (in Reuters) the price of corn has already gone up 50% in the last six weeks and the price of soybeans has gone up 30% in the same time. You may hear people talking about the price of crops in the United States in terms of “bushels”, i.e. the price of a bushel of corn. Crops like corn and soy are not sold using the measurements of pounds or kilos, but instead they are sold in bushels. A bushel is a measure for dry goods that is equal to 64 pints or 35.2 liters.
I hope that some of this cultural information about the region affected by the current drought in the United States and vocabulary about drought and crops is helpful to you as you read or hear more about this situation in the news. Here is an English language news article you can read to practice some of your new vocabulary and understanding of this current event.
*prolonged = a long time, longer than usual
**abnormally = in an abnormal way or manner
***precipitation = rain, snow, sleet, or hail; water that falls from the sky
****crops = a plant that is grown as food