The recent Arkansas drought may end up costing ranchers in the state more than $128 million, a recent University of Arkansas report indicates. This figure is a conservative one and the final tally could go significantly higher. The loss represents a major blow to the state’s agriculture industry and is part of a nationwide trend that could significantly affect food prices.
For most of the spring and summer, farmers across the country found themselves locked in the grip of the worst drought in more than 50 years. From California to Ohio, temperatures soared while rainfall plummeted. More than 60 percent of the country experienced severe drought conditions with more than 1,000 counties being declared federal disaster areas.
While much of the national attention has been on corn farmers in the Midwest, ranchers across the country have absorbed significant losses due to the drought. With water sources becoming increasingly scarce and with feed prices increasing because of crop losses nationwide, ranchers were forced to sell off large portions of their herds.
The losses are far from over. While most ranchers rely on summer grasses to feed their animals (purchasing hay in late summer and winter), drought-stricken ranchers were forced to spend their winter hay-budget to make it through the summer, meaning that more ranchers may be forced to sell off herds throughout the fall and winter.
The loss of significant amounts of livestock nationwide will likely result in significantly higher meat prices (which will likely hit consumers at the same time they face an overall food price increase thanks to massive corn losses this summer).
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer