Across the farmlands of the Midwest, global warming just got mixed with globalization. The result shapes up as a strange and contentious year with a potential impact on food prices around the globe.
As every Midwesterner knows, we're living through a weird spring. A relatively dry winter was followed by temperatures which soared into the 70s in March and stayed there. In Chicago, trees that stay bare through April sprouted leaves in March. On fruit farms, apricot and other trees flowered three to four weeks ahead of schedule.
For many corn farmers, the balmy climate provided a temptation too strong to resist. Some played it safe, delaying planting until late April, to get past the frequent April frosts. But early planting can extend the growing season and produce a bigger crop later on, so many farmers were in the fields in March, a month ahead of schedule. By mid-April, fully 59 percent of the Illinois corn crop had already been planted, compared to only 10 percent last year and 17 percent in a normal year.