Now -- harvest time -- is a good time to check back in with farmers and other food producers in your area to see how they are being affected by summer's drought:
-- Financial hardships: According to this Wall Street Journal story, small poultry and hog farms in the US and Canada are starting to declare bankruptcy, citing feed costs two to three times higher than just months ago. Even some cattle farmers are feeding candy to cows because it's cheaper than corn.
-- New prices set: Futures prices for corn, soybeans and soybean meal all set record highs over the summer at the Chicago Board of Trade, and that future is now. Market prices are higher for corn and soymeal.
-- Harvest stats: September harvest numbers are coming in and appear to be down about 1 billion bushels for corn and about 2.25 million bushels for soybeans. It's the first time since 1974 that production figures have been lower year-over-year for those crops. The harvest is also probably early in your area, as harvests were for grapes and sunflowers. Who's happy about this? Apparently, deer and pheasant hunters. Empty fields mean clear views.
-- Consumer costs: Compare food prices now or in September to those from the summer. Meat and corn products such as cereals are obvious targets, but don't forget corn-syrup-based products like sodas, as well as wheat-based products. With Thanksgiving coming up, what's the outlook on turkey prices? They will probably be higher than last year.