Drought and Food Prices
by: Bobby McDonald
While we certainly haven't had "enough" rain, this summer, to make for ideal pasture and forage crops growth, our area of the state has received some rainfall and we've been able to make some hay and provide somewhat adequate pastures for livestock. Many local farmers and ranchers had "depleated" their herds during the 2011 drought and had a much lower number of animals on their pastures, that has aided in providing adequate forage too.
Meanwhile, must of the U.S. Midwest and the entire Southwest are in "much the same shape" we were in, this time last year. Widespread drought has farmers and ranchers in those areas selling cattle, suffering from no hay and dried-up stock ponds, and "plowing under" the crops that they planted in the spring, as there is no measurable rainfall for the drought stricken areas.
"You can count on paying much higher prices for milk, eggs, beef, poultry, and pork, in the coming months," advised one agricultural forecaster. "All of these food items are dependent on corn and other crops for feed and the major producing areas are devastated by drought!"
Forecasters are predicting beef prices to rise 4 to 5 percent and dairy product prices to rise in the range of 3.5 to 4.5 percent, as there is no pastures and hay production for beef cattle and dairymen feed rations heavily dependent on corn, that has "skyrocketed" in the past few weeks, because of an extremely "light" prediction for the 2012 crop.
Interestingly, I talked with a friend of mine in the Benjamin, Texas area, last week, and the last of the cattle on the 6666 Ranch were being moved to other areas of the nation, because the NorthCentral region of Texas has been so devastated by the current drought.
Friend and photographer, Wyman Meinzer, took this photo on the 6666 Ranch of the last
cattle leaving the property for other areas of the country, last week.
Predictions for egg prices are for a rise of 3 to 4 percent, as laying hens a fed a heavy grain diet and the increased feed costs will be reflected in their cost on the shelf. Likewise, pork product prices are expected to rise from 2.5 to 3.5 percent, as well.
"In 2013, expect inflationary food prices," warned a USDA spokesperson. "The drought has affected a major portion of our food producing region and those effects will be felt throughout the food pricing chain."
"It's been four years since we've had normal rainfall, in this area," expressed one Panhandle livestockman. "It just seems like it's forgotten how to rain!"
"We're replacing corn production with milo, knowing we're not going to get as much production feeding it, but it takes less irrigation water and withstands the drought conditions better," expressed one Texas Panhandle dairy producer. "We've got to 'cut down' on our water usage a figure a way to lower our feed prices, to stay competitive."
So, while many of us here in Northeast Texas are seeing some relief from last year's devastating drought, we can all expect to continue to suffer with those producers who are still experiencing dry weather conditions across the nation, as we pay for our food at the grocery store!