US farmers are killing their own crops and selling cows due to extreme drought

By Vanessa Yurkevich | CNN Business

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. farmers say this year’s drought is hurting their crop – with significant crop and income loss, according to a new survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, an insurance company and health group. pressure that represents agricultural interests.

This year’s drought conditions are more severe than last year’s as 37% of farmers said they were plowing and killing existing crops that would not reach maturity due to dry conditions. That’s a jump of 24% from last year, according to the survey.

July was the third hottest on record in the United States and ranked in the top 10 of all western states except Montana, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin ending the week of August 6 reported “a rapidly intensifying drought gripped the central and southern plains and south-central, depleting moisture topsoil and significantly stressing rangelands, pastures and various summer crops”.

The AFBF estimates that nearly 60% of the western, southern and central plains are experiencing severe drought or more this year.

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“The effects of this drought will be felt for years, not only by farmers and ranchers, but also by consumers. Many farmers have had to make the devastating decision of either selling the livestock they have spent years raising or destroying orchards that have grown for decades,” said Zippy Duvall, President of AFBF.

The AFBF survey was conducted in 15 states from June 8 to July 20 in regions of extreme drought from Texas to North Dakota to California, which account for nearly half of the country’s agricultural production value.

In California – a state where fruit and nut tree crops are high – 50% of farmers in the state said they had to remove trees and perennial crops due to drought, the survey found. , which will affect future revenues. And 33% of all U.S. farmers said they had to do the same, nearly double the number last year.

Sell ​​herds

Texas farmers are being forced to sell their cattle herds earlier than usual due to extreme drought, as water sources dry up and grass burns. Lone Star State farmers reported the largest reduction in herd size, down 50%, followed by New Mexico and Oregon at 43% and 41% respectively.

“We haven’t had this kind of movement of cows to market in a decade, since 2011, which was our last really bad drought,” David Anderson, professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M, told CNN on Friday. last month.

Access to water for livestock has been a key issue for farmers and pastoralists this year, with 57% reporting local restrictions on water use, compared to 50% of farmers the last year. According to the AFBF, major water sources in places like Lake Mead and Lake Powell — which operate at less than 30% of their full capacity — typically supply water to 5.5 million acres of lands in seven western states.

On Tuesday, the federal government announced that the Colorado River will operate in a Level 2 shortage condition for the first time beginning in January. This means that Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will have to further reduce their water use from the Colorado River.

High inflation makes it harder for herders to save their land. The cost of diesel is down but still high, making additional water supply by truck much more expensive than in the past. The price of grass and crop fertilizers and animal feed also remains high.


US consumers can expect to spend more on certain food items due to the drought, the report said.

“For cattle and beef, once the market processes excess animals sent to the slaughterhouse and has a smaller breeding herd to operate off- [price increases] could be anywhere from six months to well over a year. For specialty crops, it could be immediate after harvest,” said Daniel Munch, an economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Most fruits, nuts and vegetables come from states with high levels of drought. But farmers have been forced to give up planting or destroy orchards. This “will likely lead American consumers to pay more for these products and either partially rely on foreign supplies or reduce the variety of items they buy at the store,” the report said.

For example, California produces 80% of the world’s almond supply, limiting where else American consumers can buy the popular nut. And changing where almonds can grow is not easy, because the crop needs a specific climate and soil.

“In general, the outlook for 2022 harvest volume is more pessimistic than a month ago and significantly more pessimistic than two months ago,” notes a July report from the Almond Board of California. The main culprits were drought, low water supply and suppression of orchards.

The August inflation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that US consumers are spending 9.3% more on fruits and vegetables than a year ago.

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