Generation of Farmers Lost in Drought

A generation of farmers in Texas may be retiring in the wake of the worst drought in the state’s history, U.S. Department of Agriculture officials say.

The drought, which lasted for nearly a year, devastated the agricultural sector, particularly farmers involved in producing staple Texas agricultural goods like cotton and cattle. While the total costs are still difficult to estimate fully, they may reach $8 billion, making this drought one of the costliest in the state’s history.

In addition to wreaking extraordinary financial damage, the drought may have exacerbated long-term agricultural demographic problems that could limit the ability of the state’s agricultural sector to continue sustainable growth.

Across the country and in Texas in particular, agriculture is a graying industry. During the last agricultural census, the number of farmers aged 65 and older grew by 22 percent, making it the fastest growing group of farm operators nationwide. These farmers were hit particularly hard by the drought and were forced to sell off herds, equipment, and land, causing many of them to rethink remaining in the agricultural sector, deciding that they are too old to start over again.

In addition to eliminating elderly farmers, the drought may have scared off younger farmers who were considering entering the profession.

Despite these setbacks, the Texas Farm Bureau is optimistic that the industry can survive this latest storm. Some Bureau officials see smaller, organic farms as the new wave of the future, and hope that this reinvented brand of sustainable agriculture can lure in younger farmers.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer