By Steve Patterson
WASHINGTON, Mo. (KSDK) - Corn cob pipes are in danger. They're really only mass produced in one place: A factory in Washington, Missouri. The 2012 drought is endangering production for years to come.
The Missouri Meerschaum Factory has been producing the pipes since the late 19th century. Each day, they ship about 3,500 corn pipes across the world.
"We are the last company in the United States, really in the world," said General Manager Phil Morgan. "The only competition we have is the knock off of our pipes, made in China."
All that is in danger. The 2012 drought destroyed most of the company's specialty corn crop. Severe heat with multiple says above 100 degrees left only about 30 percent available for harvest.
"What's devastating is to walk up on the third floor see an area that is normally wall-to-wall corn cobs and that we've got maybe 25 percent up there," said Morgan. "That's the devastating part of it."
The 2013 crop season starts in late April with planting and ends in October with harvest. Morgan says the years ahead from 2014 to 2015 and on will depend on this season.
If it's another poor harvest, the company could be looking at a 50 percent reduction in production, including hourly wages. Morgan is confidant in early reports of a good year.