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Drought kills agriculture in the US: farmers destroy crops and get rid of livestock

Nearly three-quarters of US farmers say the drought this year has hurt their crops. This, according to a new survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), has resulted in significant yield and income losses. Writes about it CNN.

Photo: IStock

The drought this year is causing more damage than last year. 37% of farmers said they plow and destroy existing crops that will not mature due to dry conditions. Last year there were 24% of such farmers.

According to the National Center for Environmental Information, July was the third hottest month on record in the US and ranked in the top 10 hottest for every state in the West except Montana.

The USDA Weekly Weekend Weather and Crop Bulletin for August 6 reported that "a sharply worsening drought has gripped the central and southern plains and the mid-south, depleting topsoil and putting significant stress on pastures and various spring crops."

Nearly 60% of the western, southern and central plains are experiencing severe drought this year, the AFBF estimates.

“The effects of this drought will be felt in the coming years, not only by farmers and ranchers, but also by consumers. Many farmers have had to make the devastating decision to sell the livestock they have spent years growing or destroy garden trees that have been growing for decades,” said Zippy Duvall, AFBF President.

The AFBF survey was conducted in 15 states from June 8 to July 20 in extremely dry regions from Texas to North Dakota and California, which account for almost half of the country's agricultural production.

The study found that in California, a state with a high yield of fruit and nut trees, 50% of farmers said they had to remove trees and perennial crops due to drought, and this will affect future income. And 33% of all U.S. farmers said they had to do the same.

Sale of herds

Farmers in Texas are being forced to sell their herds earlier than usual due to a severe drought as water sources dry up and grass burns.

They reported the largest reduction in herd size (by 50%) followed by New Mexico and Oregon (43% and 41% respectively).

"We haven't had this kind of movement of cows to market in ten years since 2011, which was the last of the really big droughts," said David Anderson, professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M.

Access to water for livestock has been a key concern for farmers and ranchers this year, with 57% reporting local restrictions on water use, up from 50% of farmers last year. Major water sources in places like Lake Mead and Powell, which operate at less than 30% of their full capacity, typically provide water to 5,5 million acres (more than 2 million hectares) of land in seven western states, according to the AFBF.

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

High inflation makes it difficult for ranchers to save their land. The cost of diesel fuel is declining but still high, making it much more expensive to ship additional volumes of water than in previous years. Prices for grass and crop fertilizers and animal feed also remain high.

Impact on the consumer

Consumers in the US may expect to spend more on certain foods due to the drought, according to the report.

“For cattle, once the market has processed the surplus of animals sent for slaughter, it could take anywhere from six months to over a year to increase prices. For some crops, this can happen right after harvest,” said Daniel Munk, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.

Fruits, nuts and vegetables overwhelmingly come from states with high levels of drought. But farmers were forced to refuse to plant or destroy orchards.

This "is likely to result in US consumers paying more for these products, and either relying partially on foreign supplies or reducing the variety of products they buy in the store," the experts noted.

For example, 80% of the world's almonds are grown in California, which limits the number of places where US consumers can buy this popular nut. It is not easy to change the place where almonds can grow, because the culture needs a special climate and certain soil.

“Overall, the forecast for the 2022 crop is more pessimistic than a month ago, and much worse than two months ago,” The Almond Board of California said in a July report. “The main culprits were drought, low water and the destruction of orchards.”

A Bureau of Labor Statistics report for August shows that American consumers are spending 9,3% more on fruits and vegetables than a year ago.

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