Photo Credit: Jerod Foster | The Texas Tribune
According to a recent American Farm Bureau Federation survey, 75% of US farmers said the drought’s escalating effects have irrefutably harmed their crops, causing a significant decline in their harvest and income.
Farmers surveyed by the bureau claim that the drought this year is worse than last year. The crops that the heat has damaged are now being killed, according to nearly 37% of the farmers, because they will no longer mature. The number of farmers engaging in this activity increased by 24% from the data from the previous year.
According to records, July was the third-hottest month in US history. The National Centers for Environmental Information reported that it has also broken records in every state and is in the top 10 in every Western state but Montana. During the first week of August, according to the US Department of Agriculture, “rapidly intensifying drought gripped the central and southern Plains and mid-South, depleting topsoil moisture and significantly stressing rangeland, pastures, and various summer crops.”
According to the AFBF report, severe droughts are occurring in 60% of the West, South, and Central Plains and may even worsen if the current trend continues.
“The effects of this drought will be felt for years to come, not just by farmers and ranchers but also consumers. Many farmers have had to make the devastating decision to sell off livestock they have spent years raising or destroy orchard trees that have grown for decades,” stated the president of the AFBF, Zippy Duvall.
The bureau’s survey, conducted from June 8 to July 20, covered 15 states and the drought-affected areas of Texas, North Dakota, and California. Roughly half of US agricultural production is produced in these regions.
The drought, according to half of the Californian farmers, led to the removal of numerous trees and a significant variety of other crops. This choice will ultimately affect the region’s production, resulting in supply shortages and a decline in revenue. California is a state that makes a significant contribution to the fruits and nut tree crops that are supplied to the US market.
The percentage of American farmers doing this has nearly doubled from last year, accounting for 33 percent of all farmers surveyed in the country.
More problems for farmers as water reserves deplete
Water supplies in several places were completely depleted as the drought persisted. Numerous Texan farmers were forced to sell their herds of cattle earlier as a result. Farmers claim that the circumstances forced them to act because they could no longer effectively raise their herds because of the limited water supply and decreased grass numbers, which have largely dried up due to the heat.
“We haven’t had this kind of movement of cows to market in a decade, since 2011, which was our last really big drought,” said Agricultural Economics professor David Anderson to reporters.
Several other states made similar reports, with Lone Star state recording the largest herd size decline of 50%. Following it were Oregon at 41% and New Mexico at 43%. Restrictions on water use by local authorities have also exacerbated the problem; 57% of respondents now identify this issue as their top concern, an increase of 7% from the previous year.
According to the AFBF, over 5.5 million acres of land in states in the West used to receive water from Lake Mead and Lake Powell. Farmers have had trouble finding alternative water sources, though, as a result of a 30% decline in lake water levels.
Setting consumer expectations
As a result, consumers must prepare for rising product prices shortly.
“For cattle and beef, once the market processes the excess animals sent to slaughter and has a smaller breeding herd to operate off of- [price increases] could be six months to well over a year. For specialty crops it could be immediate upon harvest,” told an economist at the AFBF to consumers.
“[This] will likely result in American consumers paying more for these goods and either partially relying on foreign supplies or shrinking the diversity of items they buy at the store.”