Can Farmers Weather the Drought?

With farmers experiencing the worst drought since the 1980s, and possibly the worst drought since 1952, farmers and agricultural officials are worried about the ability of the farm sector to cope with the upcoming crop losses. However, some officials are optimistic about the ability of farmers to survive the current drought.

The last several months have been the hottest and driest on record, with states across the country experiencing record heat waves. Farmers in more than 26 states are currently experiencing severe to extreme drought. While it’s difficult to predict the extent of the loss caused by the drought, experts believe that damage could be in the tens of billions and will likely exceed the $40 billion ($78 billion when adjusted for inflation) losses in 1988.

Despite the expected severity of the drought, farm officials believe that farmers are in better shape to weather the current storm than they were twenty years ago. “The farm economy is much healthier than it was in 1988,” said an official at the Iowa Farm Bureau. “We were coming out of the farm crisis. You had an extended period of low prices for grains, particularly 1985, ’86, ’87. There was severe financial stress in the ag economy and land prices that had plummeted about 60 percent in many of the Midwest areas. It’s much different today.”

Farmers today are coming off a major farm boom. For the past few years, with crop prices high, land value going up, and farm exports booming, farmers have been reaping windfall profits. While many hope that record farm incomes will help insulate farmers from the worst of the drought, the agricultural community is still pushing for a new farm bill containing drought and disaster funding to guarantee their survival.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer