Sunday, January 13, 2008

La Nina and the election...

More proof that voters are not rational.
This paper uses state-level election returns and individual-level survey
data to show that American voters have systematically punished theincumbent party for extreme weather in presidential election years. A
moderate drought has cost the incumbent party an average of 2.6 percent of
the presidential vote in rural areas, with no significant effect in urban and
suburban areas. Weather’s impact has diminished over time as agriculture’s
economic importance has decreased. The results indicate that a voter’s
partisan preferences and education predict his rationality. Election-year
weather does not significantly affect the behavior of moderate voters or
those voters who have attended college. [More]
Most disappointing in this study the apparent inability of voters to associate things politicians can control and things beyond their control with their voting decisions. For instance, faulting politicians for their response to drought is rational; blaming them for the drought is not.

So if Moisturesinger Elwin Taylor is finally correct, this year could be a production and political double-whammy.
"Several weather research groups see some indication that the La Nina may diminish quickly and not pose a risk to U.S. crops in 2008," he adds. "Never the less, it is now at the level to be considered a risk. When La Nina is in place in June and July the risk of a below trend corn yield in the U.S. Corn Belt is 70%."

This risk is increased by below normal subsoil moisture supplies, the 19 year drought cycle, and existence of drought in the area of South Carolina. "At this time the combined risk is a 68% chance of below trend U.S. corn yield," says Taylor. "The USDA trend for 2008 hasn't yet been released but will likely be near 151.6 bushels per acre. The chance of a near record high yield--greater than 165 bushels per acre—is at 15%, and of drought--below 135 bushels per acre--is 35%." [More]
Any political fallout from a drought would be exacerbated by the growing food/fuel friction in both parties. If corn farmers deliver a short crop during a time of unprecedented high prices - regardless of the reason - there will be some tough questions put to our energy policy.

As it becomes more likely the country is slowing to a standstill - if not actually contracting - the worst possible outcome for corn farmers would be a short corn crop and extremely high corn prices. Especially since there will be scant hard proof of policy benefits to anyone other than our industry to counter the likely backlash.

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