Drought devastates tiny Brooklyn, Iowa; our food prices may spike
If you think the weather’s bad in Brooklyn, N.Y., you should see the devastating drought in Brooklyn, Iowa.
Weeks of temperature in the 90s with occasional forays into the 100s and very little rain have wreaked havoc on Iowa’s corn, livestock and soybean industries.
During a public forum hosted on Tuesday by Gov. Terry Branstad, farmers expressed alarm about the impact of what state climatologist Harry Hillaker calls the worst drought in Iowa since 1988.
They predicted a ripple effect throughout the state as smaller-than-expected harvests cause prices to spike and create a shortage of grain products that feed livestock. This, in turn, may lead to higher meat and dairy prices at supermarkets across the country, since Iowa is the country’s top producer of corn and soybeans.
Nowhere does this precarious situation hit home more than in tiny Brooklyn, population 1,460, where according to Pastor Dennis Smith of the Madison Church of Christ, about a third of the people are farmers and another third are employees or owners of businesses that sell goods to farmers.
“There are farms everywhere,” said City Clerk Sherri Sharer. “There are not many industries. This is a farming community.”
Describing the area’s farming economy, Smith said that about half of the farms produce corn and about half produce soybeans. Of the corn, about half heads to livestock farms, where it is used as feed. Of the rest, most is used for corn sweetener or ethanol. They soybean crop is used mainly for animal feed and oil.
Brooklyn, Iowa’s, heavy reliance on farming makes the recent spate of hot weather — merely annoying in Brooklyn, N.Y. — a catastrophe.
“We’re at a very critical time — they’re predicting seven to eight days of 100-degree heat with only two inches of rain since May,” said Rusty Clayton, owner of True Value Hardware.
“Some of the farmers have crop insurance to cover their costs, but those who don’t are just out.”
At this point, due to the drought, only 40 percent of Brooklyn’s crops are in good condition, says Norm Taylor, a city councilman and volunteer firefighter.
“Today, the temperature went to 99 degrees with a heat index of 108. For this time of year, normal is supposed to be 86, 88, somewhere in there,” Taylor said on Wednesday.
While the crops aren’t actually burning, as they are in some other areas of the state, things in Brooklyn are definitely not good.
Even for those people employed by businesses, “if their customers don’t have the money to spend, they won’t stay in business,” says Pastor Smith. “People are already starting to eat into their disposable income.”
The drought aside, Brooklyn, main claim to fame is its “Avenue of Flags,” a permanently lighted display featuring the flags of all 50 states, the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces and 35 foreign countries. This has gained Brooklyn the nickname the “Community of Flags.”
In addition to the one in Iowa, there are Brooklyns in Indiana, Connecticut, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, California, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.