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Summer's been one for the books

Yes, it's been just as hot as you think it's been. Even by Southwest Georgia standards.

In fact, on Friday, The Associated Press reported that Georgia's state climatologist, David Stooksbury, said this has been the state's hottest summer on record.

Based on average mean temperature, Stooksbury said, June-August was the hottest ever recorded for the three months in Alma, Athens, Augusta, Columbus and Savannah. Macon had its second-hottest ever, while Atlanta had its third-hottest.

Stooksbury said Atlanta, which has temperature records dating back more than 130 years -- had an average mean temperature of 82.3 degrees, more than 3 1/2 degrees above average -- and an average high of 92.5 degrees, which was 4.5 degrees hotter than the city's normal average.

But while that has meant brown lawns and cracked, parched clay, the biggest impact may be felt later, when the heat moves from the air to the wallet.

Gov. Nathan Deal is asking President Obama to declare 157 of Georgia's 159 counties disaster areas from the drought and heat. That means that at least one commodity in each of those 157 counties -- Muscogee and Chattahoochee are the only two that wouldn't qualify -- has at least a 30 percent loss.

On Friday, Georgia's U.S. senators and 10 of the state's House delegation -- including Reps. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, and Austin Scott, R-Tifton -- sent U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack a letter urging his agency to move ahead with Deal's request for disaster relief.

That would help producers in the short term. But the concern, even more than the immediate one, is that the winter will be dry, as well, and things will heat up the same way next spring. If that happens, Georgia farmers could run into a situation in which there is not enough ground moisture for crops to germinate properly.

That would affect the supply of a number of commodities, including peanuts and cotton, which could drive those prices up or open U.S. markets to more imports.

And Georgia is not an isolated case. Other states that produce much of the nation's food are in similar situations.

Take Texas. A report on National Public Radio on Friday noted that cattlemen in that state are thinning their herds because the drought has hampered their ability to feed them, forcing the cattle owners to have expensive hay shipped in from states that have gotten better rainfall this year.

That's resulted in the cattle operations sending their older stock to slaughterhouses earlier than normal. In the short-term, that might be a boon for consumers, since the extra beef in the marketplace will likely drive beef prices down.

But there's always a catch.

The thinner herds mean that in the next year or two, the beef supply may be less than demand, which means that cheap hamburger you buy next month will become a lot more expensive in 2012 or 2013.

Anyway you want to look at it, some rain (no stalled tropical storms, though, please) and an early cold snap would do us all a world of good.