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Summer heat crisis for crops and livestock


As I looked for ideas for this column, I came across some information about what the widespread summer heat is doing to U.S. farmers. Obviously, I did not write the following but gathered it from various sources.

Successful Farmer reports: For the first time this summer, the U.S. Drought Monitor indicated moisture stress in each of the top 18 corn growing states. Colorful maps released Thursday, July 21 show expanding and intensifying drought conditions in many areas as a record-setting heat wave sweeps the country.

The Texas Tribune adds: “We can’t outfox what Mother Nature sends us,” said Arthur, whose farm is about 30 miles outside of Lubbock. “2022 has been one for the record books. We’ve always compared years to 2011, as far as droughts and whatnot, but 2022 is worse. We don’t have any underground moisture.”

Newsweek reports: At the same time that farmers are trying to keep their crops growing, they're also struggling to get their cattle and sheep enough shade during the scorching conditions, which can cause even barns to becoming unbearably hot.

"The most important thing for the animals is if the temperature drops below 70 degrees at night, they have a chance to recover overnight a little bit, just like we do when we go home to the air conditioning," Mary Margaret Smith, executive program director of Farm Units at the University of Connecticut, told WTIC.

One of the problems with heat, even if there is adequate rain, is that it kills pollen. PBS explained recently:

Even with adequate water, heat can damage pollen and prevent fertilization in canola and many other crops, including corn, peanuts, and rice.

For this reason, many growers aim for crops to bloom before the temperature rises. But as climate change increases the number of days over 90 degrees in regions across the globe, and multi-day stretches of extreme heat become more common, getting that timing right could become challenging, if not impossible.

Faced with a warmer future, researchers are searching for ways to help pollen beat the heat. They’re uncovering genes that could lead to more heat-tolerant varieties and breeding cultivars that can survive winter and flower before heat strikes. They’re probing pollen’s precise limits and even harvesting pollen at large scales to spray directly onto crops when weather improves.

At stake is much of our diet. Every seed, grain, and fruit that we eat is a direct product of pollination, explains biochemist Gloria Muday of North Carolina’s Wake Forest University. “The critical parameter is the maximum temperature during reproduction,” she says.

Older Adults Plan to Work in Retirement

Then there’s a survey report on how older adults are coping with financial uncertainty:

Nearly half of older adults are already working in retirement for financial reasons or plan to do so, according to a recent AARP survey.

The survey of adults 50 and older found that financial pressures were pushing some to extend their working years or to come out of retirement.

Fifty-seven percent of older adults who haven’t yet retired plan to continue working for financial reasons, according to the survey, and 29 percent of retirees 50 and older already are employed or plan to continue working.

Forty-two percent are already working in retirement or plan to do so for financial reasons. Of those retirees who already are working, 55 percent cited financial need as the reason why.

More than 1,000 Americans age 50-plus were polled for the survey, which was conducted between May 19 and May 23. Respondents were asked questions related to their employment status, including whether they are currently working or expect to work after retiring and whether financial reasons contributed to their decision.

Military Branches Scramble for Recruits

Another interesting report says young people aren’t signing up for military service or they can’t qualify for entrance requirements:

By the end of September, the U.S. Army says it will be 7,000 troops short of where it should be. The Army says it anticipates it may lose up to 28,000 troops by fiscal year 2023′s end. By the end of June, the Army stood at 40% of its recruiting goal of 55,400 new soldiers for fiscal year 2022.

The Army issued a five-page memo saying that the pandemic plays a part in the recruiting challenge. CNN reports:

"Pandemic-driven constraints like virtual learning have further limited access to the recruiting population in high schools and exacerbated a decline in academic and fitness levels," Christine Wormuth, the civilian Secretary of the Army, and General James McConnville, the four star Chief of Staff, said in the memo. Preliminary data is suggesting remote schooling "may have lowered" scores on the armed services aptitude test by as much as 9%, according to the memo.

The Army has struggled to find enlistees who can meet medical and moral standards, in fact only one in four young Americans would qualify, according to Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville who also told Congress recently that fewer young Americans are willing to serve. Almost a third of Americans of recruitment age are not Covid vaccinated, which is a requirement.

The Army says one of the biggest challenges to recruiting is that there are so many good-paying jobs open in the private sector that a military career is less attractive. And the Army has a more detailed way to discover the medical histories of recruits that they used to be able to end-run. Army Times explains that challenge:

In March, the DoD launched MHS Genesis, an electronic medical records system that can access applicants’ medical history from most U.S. civilian medical providers and the entire military medical system. A similar program, the Medical Review of Authoritative Data, launched in late 2021.

Before these new screenings, applicants were required to self-report their medical history and recruiters were expected to help gather records validating those histories. But recruiters had an informal practice of coaching recruits to selectively omit parts of their medical history.

The new screenings have eliminated that practice – so applicants have to tell the truth and be prepared to request medical waivers for anything that appears in their records, such as once-filled antidepressant prescriptions, never-used inhalers or other potentially-disqualifying conditions or medicines.

This year, facing the shortfall of recruits, the Army dropped its requirement that enlistees graduate high school or earn a GED. Then, only a week later, the Army dropped that waiver called the 111 Non-Grad (NA) enlistment program.

The encouraging news for the Army is that it has retained more troops than it projected. Army Times reports, “Retention numbers remain near record highs – more than 57,000 troops reenlisted as of July 7, against an annual goal of around 54,000.”

The Army is not alone in trying to land recruits. Stars and Stripes reports that the U.S. Air Force recently “expanded big bonus payments for recruits who enlist in certain high-priority specialties, offering more than $50,000 to some willing to ship quickly as the service fights through tough times attracting troops.”

Stars and Stripes also said:

Military officials from the Air Force – as well as the other service branches – have described fiscal 2022 as the toughest recruiting year in decades.

The Pentagon has said among the 31.8 million 17- to 24-year-olds in the United States, only about 9.1 million meet the basic physical requirements to serve in the military and only about 4.4 million of those physically eligible meet minimal academic requirements to enlist.


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