(Slay News) – American farmers are being forced to destroy their own crops and sell off their livestock due to widespread water restrictions.
The thinning of U.S. farms is, in turn, driving up food prices and adding to the overall economic downturn that Americans have been increasingly struggling with for the past two years.
Water restrictions amid drought conditions have put the production of beef, dairy, wheat, vegetable, fruits, and nuts at serious risk, according to a survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation.
As Slay News has previously reported, farmers have been reporting that water cutbacks are turning their land into dust.
Droughts have been persistent in the states throughout the Central Plains up to North Dakota, all the way west to California, and all the way south to Texas.
This is nearly the entire region that is vital to U.S. agriculture.
The area makes up about half of the nation’s $364 billion agricultural production value, according to the AFBF.
“This includes 74% of beef cattle, responsible (in total) for 18% of U.S. agricultural production by value; 50% of dairy production, responsible (in total) for 11% of U.S. agricultural production by value, over 80% of wheat production by value and over 70% of vegetable, fruit and tree nut production by value,” the AFBA outlined.
The cutbacks have been widely blamed on poor management by water authorities during drought periods.
“The consequence to me personally is around the tune $150,000 to $200,000 in lost profit,” Texas farmer Tim Gertson said.
“As droughts worsen and get more intense, the consequences for rice farming is when there starts to be more of demand on that natural resource on water.”
As of July 1, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) cut farmers in its supply areas off from water this season.
The LCRA is targetting farmers as part of its water management plan to help with the preservation of water.
“So, what happens when we get cut off for our second crop water is we’re unable to grow the portion of our crop that we can grow the most efficiently, and the most profitable,” Gertson said.
Luckily for Gertson, he gets some of his water from a well on his property to help grow crops.
But, that’s not always enough to get the job done and isn’t something that’s sustainable for all farmers since building a well is so expensive and overuse can cause the well to run dry.
Farmers and ranchers are now being forced to take drastic measures just to survive.
Most notably, there has been a significant increase from last year in farmers having to till under crops, remove fruit trees, and even sell off their livestock.
“Those who reported tilling under crops because of drought conditions jumped from only 24% of respondents last year to 37% of respondents this year,” the AFBF reported.
“Similarly, 33% of respondents reported destroying and removing orchard trees and other multiyear crops as prevalent or higher, up from only 17% last year.”
Across the region surveyed by the AFBF, respondents also expected average crop yields to be down 38 percent this year.
Texas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico are expected to have the biggest drops in yield.
Meanwhile, ranchers are having to drastically reduce their herd sizes.
Many did so last year and told the AFBF that they had to do so again this year.
“Of the surprising 67% of respondents who reported reducing herd sizes in 2021, nearly 50% were further reducing their herd or flock this year, 37% were maintaining the reduced herd size and only 14% were building their headcount back up,” the AFBF reported.
Along with the 67 percent who had to reduce herd sizes last year, 76 percent also fallowed their rangeland.
One promising sign, though, is that although ranchers have had to reduce herds and fallow land, many are holding onto their land.
But as herds are thinned out, these “smaller inventories of livestock across a region that supports over 70% of domestic beef production by value decreases production and drives up prices for consumers,” the AFBF noted.
“For cattle and beef, once the market processes the excess animals sent to slaughter and has a smaller breeding herd to operate off of, [price increases] could be six months to well over a year,” said Daniel Munch, an economist at the AFBF, according to CNN.
“For specialty crops, it could be immediate upon harvest.”
While the drought conditions most immediately impact ranchers and farmers, down the line it will affect every American as food prices rise.
And it will not go away after just a season or two, even if the water restrictions are lifted.
“The effects of this drought will be felt for years to come, not just by farmers and ranchers but also by consumers,” said Zippy Duvall, AFBF president, according to KMBC-TV.
“Many farmers have had to make the devastating decision to sell off livestock they have spent years raising or destroy orchard trees that have grown for decades.”
Food prices have already been rising in the U.S. due to outrageously high inflation rates.
“The [consumer price index] for all food increased 1.0 percent from May 2022 to June 2022, and food prices were 10.4 percent higher than in June 2021,” the Department of Agriculture reported in July.
The USDA predicted that food prices across the board will continue rising throughout 2022 and into 2023.
These price increases are going to hurt all Americans, but particularly poor Americans, as The Heritage Foundation noted.
“For lower-income Americans, this situation is particularly troubling.
“Skyrocketing food prices are regressive and particularly damaging to them, as they spend a greater share of their after-tax income on food compared with higher-income Americans.
“Their trade-offs might not just be giving up a night at the movies or not going out to dinner,” Heritage pointed out.
“It might be far worse, such as not going to the doctor or not running the air conditioning.”
While the increase in food prices is nothing new due to inflation, the news of how drought conditions are wreaking havoc on crops and herds should have all Americans paying attention and preparing for the coming years.
These problems are not just hurting farmers.
This will continue to affect every corner of American society.