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American farmers are killing their crops and selling cattle because of extreme drought

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This year’s drought conditions are more damaging than last year’s, with 37% of farmers saying they have plowed and withered existing crops that had not yet reached maturity due to dry conditions. That’s a leap from last year’s 24%, according to the survey.

According to the National Center for Environmental Information, July was the third hottest on record in the United States and ranked among the top 10 in every western state except Montana. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin, which ended the week of August 6, said, “Rapidly intensifying drought hits the central and southern plains and the central South, depleting topsoil moisture and damaging rangelands, It put a lot of stress on pastures, and a variety of summer crops.”

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

“The effects of this drought will be felt by farmers and ranchers as well as consumers for years to come. We had to make the devastating decision to destroy an orchard tree that had grown for decades,” said AFBF President Zippy Duvall.

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

In California, a high-yielding state for fruit and nut trees, 50% of farmers in the state said they had to cut down trees and multi-year crops because of drought, which could be a problem in the future. Studies have shown that it affects revenue. And 33% of all US farmers say they should do the same, nearly double from last year.

herd sale

Farmers in Texas are being forced to sell off their herds earlier than usual as extreme drought dries up water sources and burns pasture. Farmers in Lone Star State reported the biggest declines in herd size, with herd sizes down 50%, while New He decreased 43% and 41% respectively in Mexico and Oregon.
David Anderson, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M University, told CNN last month, “Since 2011 was the last major drought, this is the first time in a decade that this type of cattle has been marketed.” said.

Access to water for livestock is a key issue for farmers and ranchers this year, with 57% reporting local water use restrictions, compared with 50% of farmers last year. Major water sources such as Lake Mead and Lake Powell, which are at less than 30% of their maximum capacity, typically supply water to his 5.5 million acres of land in seven western states, according to the AFBF.

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

High inflation makes it harder for ranchers to rescue their land. Diesel costs have fallen but are still high, making it significantly more expensive to truck additional water than in years past. Prices for grass and crop fertilizers and animal feed also remain high.

Consumer impact

US consumers can expect to spend more on certain foods due to the drought, according to the report.

“For cattle and beef, once the surplus animals sent to the slaughterhouse are marketed and small breeding herds are operated… [price increases] It may take six months to a year or more. For specialty products, this can be done soon after harvest,” said Daniel Munch, an economist at the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Fruits, nuts, and vegetables come from states that are predominantly drought-prone. But farmers are forced to forego planting or destroy their orchards. This could lead “American consumers to pay more for these goods, relying partially on foreign supply or reducing the variety of goods they buy in stores.” the report said.

For example, California produces 80% of the world’s almond supply, limiting other places US consumers can buy the popular nut. Also, changing where almonds grow is not easy. Because crops require specific climates and soils.

“In general, the 2022 yield outlook is more pessimistic than it was a month ago and much more pessimistic than it was two months ago,” noted a July report from the California Almond Commission. doing. The main causes were drought, insufficient water supply and removal of orchards.

US consumers are spending 9.3% more on fruits and vegetables than they did a year ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ August inflation report.

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