Last week, House majority leaders moved to delay the 2012 Farm Bill for one year. Majority representatives instead proposed an extension bill that would cut conservation programs by approximately $761 million. The House also announced its plan to establish an interim legislation that would provide aid to farmers devastated by the drought. The 2012 Farm Bill would have covered disaster assistance for such farmers. Farmer advocates and supporting organizations began immediate efforts to rescind the new bill. This week, Congress announced its decision to throw out the extension bill.
Sherry and Chris Vinton run a cow-calf ranch in northeast Nebraska. This time last year, the Vintons would have received eight or nine inches of rain. Unfortunately, this year’s drought has delivered less than two inches of rainwater to the Vintons’ pasture. Most of the grass and low plants used to feed the cows have died. Without suitable grazing lands for their animals, Sherry and Chris have begun to sell off their animals by the truckloads. The drought has left numerous ranchers in the same position as the Vintons. Rancher advocates and government officials are trying to determine the best way to aid ranchers. Buying American beef instead of cheap imported beef will relieve some financial burden on ranchers. However, with the mounting evidence that suggests climate change is largely responsible for this year’s drought, researchers believe that curbing climate change is the best way to provide long-term aid to ranchers.
Livestock farmers are being hit especially hard by the drought. Unable to feed their animals because of dying grasslands, farmers are forced to buy fodder on the open market at inflated prices. Those who cannot afford to purchase feed are either reducing their herds, with many contemplating leaving the farming business altogether.
According to researchers, the drought has already caused a decline in Iowa and Midwest economies. In Iowa, the drought has significantly reduced farmer income and increased commodity costs for livestock and ethanol producers, and food processors. As a result, jobs in the manufacturing industry will diminish, as will sales of farming equipment. In a month’s time, Iowa’s economy has dropped from 68 to 62.1. During the same span of time, nine mostly Midwest states have experienced an 8.5 point decline in economy. Economists expect recent declines to spill over into other industries because the agriculture business is so interactive.
And, now for some lighter news, a dairy farmer in Memphis is milking camels! Would you drink camel milk?