Drought and Its Effects on Farming and Agriculture
A severe drought, such as the one that has affected the Midwest, Southwest, Southeast and the Southern and Central Plains regions of the United States last year, can have lasting effects on both the local and national agricultural and farming industry. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in September that 24 percent of the United States was suffering from severe to extreme drought conditions and 28 percent of the country classified as experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions.
A lack of rainfall can cause entire crops to fail or result in a very small crop, even for farmers who irrigate their fields. In turn, low crop production leads to losses in other industries that rely on agricultural products in order to stay in business. The drought has led to increased prices for hay, feeds and even grocery produce. It has also effected ethanol production as the demand for corn has exceeded production levels.
Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension estimates that the drought that has affected Texas this year has caused agricultural losses that are expected to exceed $5.2 billion dollars, a record loss for the industry within the state. These losses are coming from failed crops such as cotton, corn, sorghum, wheat and hay. The loss of hay production is estimated to cause agricultural business losses worth more than $700 million and, combined with the loss in corn production, is causing significant problems for many livestock producers.
Livestock producers in areas affected by the drought are now having to pay significantly higher prices for the same amount of forage and corn-based feeds they purchased in previous years. In some cases, local hay is not readily available and farmers are having to cull their herds or spend significantly more money having hay brought in from other parts of the country. Lawmakers in Kansas have temporarily eased laws governing the transport of hay and the sale of livestock in order to help ease the financial strain that he drought conditions have put on farmers.
The combination of a limited supply and high demand will drive prices up enough to somewhat off-set the losses for farmers who have managed to produce some crops, but as a whole the drought has lead to increased operational costs for farmers and significant losses in the agricultural industry.