The effects of last year’s devastating drought are still reverberating across the country, doing considerable damage to the economy and greatly undermining farmers’ confidence for the upcoming year.
For the last year, farmers across the country have struggled with record high temperatures and the lingering effects of a dry, mild winter. 2012 has the dubious distinction of being the hottest year on record and, with more than 1,000 counties declared disaster areas, farmers from California to Ohio have felt the sting.
Some parts of the country have it even worse. In the Southwest, the drought has been lingering for more than just the last year. In the Texas panhandle, for example, drought conditions are entering their third year and some farmers have seen successive seasons of crops wither and die. In many parts of Texas, the situation has become so dire than lifelong ranchers are planning on selling their entire herds in the spring and leaving the business.
In addition to direct crop damage, the drought may hinder agricultural trade. The Mississippi River, the nation’s major shipping route, is reaching historic low water levels. As water levels decline, it becomes harder and harder to river barges and cargo ships to operate, making it harder and harder for farmers to transport many of their goods.
While many scientists are unwilling to draw conclusive links between a single drought and climate change, many scientific estimates predict that temperatures will increase about 2-4 degrees in the next decade. Some also believe that recurring droughts may become a relatively common part of the American landscape.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer