As US Dries Up in Drought, Farmers' Hands Are Forced

America's farmers are having to kill off their own crops, sell cattle earlier than usual
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 18, 2022 8:57 AM CDT
Drought Forces US Farmers to Sell Cattle, Kill Off Crops
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Taglass)

In 2021, nearly a quarter of America's farmers said they had to kill their own crops because drought conditions had made the environment so dry that the crops were never going to mature. Things haven't gotten any better since: This year, 37% of the nation's farmers say they've been forced to take on the same unpleasant crop-killing task. That's just one of the concerning stats out of the most recent survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation, a lobbying and insurance firm that's sending up a red flag on how dire the drought situation is for the nation's agricultural industry.

The survey notes 17 states—from Texas and north through the central Plains, to the Southwest and even further west to California—are responsible for nearly half of the country's $364 billion agricultural output, and that 60% of that region is now considered to be suffering from D3 (severe) drought or worse. CNN Business cites a weekly crop and weather bulletin released last week from the US Department of Agriculture noting that last month, "rapidly intensifying drought gripped the central and southern Plains and mid-South, depleting topsoil moisture and significantly stressing rangeland, pastures, and various summer crops." The AP reports that Northeast farmers are also struggling with dry conditions, with a good portion of New England currently in "severe" or "extreme" drought status, per the US Drought Monitor .

In addition to crop kill-offs, some farmers—especially in Texas—are having to sell their cattle herds sooner than they usually do, as water for livestock is getting hard to come by and grass has become too parched for grazing. So what can American consumers expect from all of this in the near term? For one, higher prices for fruits, vegetables, and nuts, typically grown in states now plagued by drought, are likely, per the survey. And the rest of the world may soon have a hard time finding one food item in particular: almonds. The report notes that California produces 80% of the international supply, and that "shifting production to other states is not often feasible" due to "the diversity of crop climate" and soil needs. "The effects of this drought will be felt for years to come," AFBF President Zippy Duvall tells CNN. (More drought stories.)

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