“Basically, for every cow in this pen, I’m getting scoop and chop.
Gary: Every day before and after school, John Epperly does his daily chores: preparing chop for the cattle, feeding milk to the newborns, and bailing hay.
Farming is tough, and this year’s record drought isn’t helping.
“The drought is devastating to farmers because of the fact that – that is – it’s like our income. I know a lot of beef farmers, even milk, dairy farmers, they have to sell parts of their herd or, like, downsize. I know some people are going out of business because of this.”
America is suffering the worst drought in decades affecting more than 60% of the U.S. The Department of Agriculture has designated more than seventeen hundred counties, including ten in the state of Ohio, as natural disaster areas.
“Just by seeing, like, the height overall – the stocks, the stocks are shorter, and the ears, you can see, they’re a lot smaller. And when you pull them back, you can see there’s very poor development of the actual ear.”
The U.S. corn crop is expected to drop to its lowest level in the nearly two decades, and the soybean production forecast at a nine-year low.
So what’s the big deal? Well, corn is an extremely important crop. Aside from food, it’s used to help make things like plastics, paper, gas, and much more. It’s hard to find things that aren’t made from corn.
Although John’s family won’t harvest what they expected from their corn and soybean crops, he says his family got the better end of the drought.
Two hundred miles away in southwest Ohio, fields are brown and burned.
“How much product we’ve lost, of corn and whatnot? I’d say 90 percent.”
Karen, whose family has farmed in this area for almost 100 years, says the tough years of drought keep coming.
“This year has been really, really bad, but it’s also been really bad the past three years. We’ve just been getting by the past three years, the past four years. And year after year after year after year, you kind of get tired of not really making any money.”
If there’s no rain, there’s no water for the crops to grow, no hay for the livestock to eat or water for them to drink. So farmers have to spend their hard-earned money to buy water from other places. And that can add up quickly.
“So for someone like me, who’s never a day in his life worked on a farm – how can this drought impact me, ‘way in New York City?
“In a lot a lot of ways. OK – so you walk in your supermarket, you look to your left and there’s a bag of chips. If you look at the ingredients, there’s a million things – I guarantee you corn, high fructose corn syrup’s going to be on it, corn starch…it costs so much for us to grow it, it costs so much more for the consumer to buy it.”
While some parts of the region have received rain recently, many feel that is too little, too late.
This weekend, what’s left of hurricane Isaac has dropped rain on parts of the north and Midwest that badly need moisture, hopefully helping the crops that are still alive.
For Karen and other farmers, each day is a roll of the dice.
“Farming is definitely gambling. You don’t know. You’re going in, hoping that you’re going to come out with a good crop. If it doesn’t rain, if something bad or disaster or something happens that year, you come out with hopefully something.”
Gary Hamilton, Channel One News.
- What effect has the drought had on farmers?
- Why is corn a really important crop?
- How do farmers cope with drought conditions?
- Why should everyone be concerned about the drought?