Drought Challenges Ag Coalitions

While farmers nationwide struggle against ongoing and devastating drought conditions, the organizations that represent them are finding it harder and harder to keep a diverse agricultural coalition together in the face of austerity cuts and climatological difficulty.

This past summer has been a rollercoaster for American farmers. Weather-wise, extreme drought conditions hammered producers across the country. More than one-third of the nation has experienced severe or extreme drought condition and state and federal officials have declared more than 1,000 counties disaster areas. Some states have reported extreme damage done to crop production, especially corn. States like Iowa and Illinois, both in the heart of the Corn Belt, have reported that less than 15 percent of their corn crop is in good condition.

In the midst of the drought, farmers also found themselves in a massive political battle this summer as Congress debated passing a new farm bill in the midst of an austerity budget. With the baseline budget reductions for ag programs at a floor of about $20 billion, farmers faced very hard questions about what programs to fight for.

These conditions have placed considerable strain on agricultural coalitions. As it stands, groups like the Farm Bureau represent a wide range of the agricultural community (including corn producers, livestock farmers, and biofuel interests). In the middle of this drought, these groups have found their interests conflicting. Livestock producers, for example, have been lobbying to remove ethanol mandates, claiming that they are driving up corn prices and driving up the cost of livestock feed. Corn farmers, however, would prefer to keep those prices high in order to offset their massive crop losses this summer.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer