Is Severe U.S. Drought Drying Up Obama’s Chances?

He may not be responsible, but that doesn’t mean the President won’t pay a price for the worst drought since the 1950s.

Corn plants damaged by extreme heat and drought conditions stand in a field in Carmi, Illinois, U.S., on Wednesday, July 11, 2012. More than 1,000 counties in 26 states are being named natural-disaster areas, the biggest such declaration ever by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as drought grips the Midwest. (Photo: Getty Images). 

Jul 18, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

Weather maps are ablaze with triple-digit readings and sweltering heat, but it’s the dire warnings for farmers caught in wilting drought conditions that could spell bad news for President Obama’s reelection bid, says Patrik Jonsson in The Christian Science Monitor.

It’s absurd to think Obama is actually responsible for the worst drought the U.S. has seen since the 1950s, but Jonsson connects the dots to its impact on the November election by pointing out that inflation and income rate are key factors in the way Americans cast their votes.

“[With] the drought impact on the food sector, we’re going to have an inflation issue here, and that will put a damper on consumer confidence and will have a major impact on the election, Michael Walden, consumer economics expert at North Carolina State, told The Christian Science Monitor.

RELATED: Is Climate Change Screwing Your Commute?

With approximately two-thirds of the nation affected by serious drought conditions, agriculture officials are keeping a close eye on crops and livestock figures, and are putting out some harsh numbers. Nearly 38 percent of the U.S. corn crop is in poor condition. Soybeans aren’t faring much better. And some ranchers are choosing to sell off livestock early as fields dry up and feed prices escalate. Drought conditions don’t look like they’ll abate any time soon, which will translate into higher consumer costs for everything from cereal to soda to juicy hamburgers.

But if consumers are seeing supermarket price hikes already, U.S., Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the drought is not to blame—at least not just yet.

“The prices and the impact of a drought probably will not likely be seen in the grocery aisles until later next year, 2013. If folks are using this opportunity to raise prices inappropriately, shame on them,” he said.

Still, Jonsson’s not alone in suggesting that weather-related events are quickly becoming an election-year issue. Talking Points Memo says House Republicans are blocking Democrats’ push for a hearing on the extreme weather.

In a letter to Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Rep. Ed Whitefield (R-KY) (both of whom are up for reelection), Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) write, “...we have written you fourteen times to request hearings on the science of climate change. Our premise was that if you and other Republican members had genuine doubts about the strength of the science, you would welcome hearings at which Committee members could hear testimony from the nation’s leading experts. Yet you have not responded to any of our letters.”

Whether or not food price hikes will be in the back of voters minds come the November election is still unclear, but as agricultural land gets tagged as disaster areas, we’re thinking both sides might be wise to hope for rain.

More on extreme weather:

Extreme Weather Linked to Man-Made Climate Change: Now What?

Is Climate Change Screwing Your Commute?

Extreme Drought Forcing Ranchers to Sell Herds

Do you think the extreme drought will impact the President’s reelection in November? Leave us a comment and let us know what you think.