(CNN) — Nearly three-quarters of US farmers say this year’s drought is hurting their crops: there are significant crop and income losses, according to a new survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), an insurance company and insurance group. lobby representing farm interests.
This year’s drought conditions are taking a higher toll than last year, with 37% of farmers saying they are plowing and killing existing crops that will not reach maturity due to dry conditions. This is a 24% increase from last year, according to the survey.
July 2022 was the third warmest July on record in US history and ranked in the top 10 for every western state except Montana, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. The US Department of Agriculture’s Weekly Crop and Weather Bulletin ending the week of August 6 reported that “a rapidly increasing drought has gripped the central and southern Plains and mid-South, depleting soil moisture and significantly emphasized pastures, pastures and various summer crops.
The AFBF estimates that almost 60% of the Western, Southern and Central Plains are experiencing severe or greater drought this year.
“The effects of this drought will be felt for years to come, not only by farmers and ranchers, but also by consumers. Many farmers had to make the devastating decision to either sell the livestock they had spent years raising or the fruit trees to destroy . . . that has grown for decades,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the AFBF.
The AFBF survey was conducted from June 8 to July 20 in 15 states in regions of extreme drought from Texas to North Dakota to California, which account for nearly half the value of the nation’s agricultural output.
In California, a state with many fruit and nut tree crops, 50% of the state’s farmers said they had to remove perennial trees and crops because of the drought, the survey found, which will affect future income. And 33% of all US farmers said they had to do the same, almost twice as many as last year.
Cattle sale due to drought
Texas farmers are being forced to sell their cattle herds earlier than normal due to extreme drought as water sources dry up and grass burns. Farmers in Texas reported the largest reduction in herd size, down 50%, followed by New Mexico and Oregon with 43% and 41%, respectively.
“We haven’t had this kind of movement of cattle to market in a decade, since 2011, which was our last major drought,” David Anderson, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M, said last month. CNN said.
Access to water for livestock was a key issue for farmers and ranchers this year, with 57% reporting local restrictions on water use, compared to 50% of farmers last year. Key water sources in places like Lake Mead and Lake Powell, operating below 30% of their maximum capacity, typically supply water to 2 million acres of land in seven western states, according to the AFBF.
On Tuesday, the federal government announced that the Colorado River will operate in a Level 2 deficit condition for the first time in January. This means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will have to further reduce their use of Colorado River water.
High inflation makes it harder for farmers to save their land. The cost of diesel is falling, but remains high, making it significantly more expensive to load additional water than in previous years. The price of fertilizers for grass and crops and animal feed also remains high.
Impact on the consumer
American consumers can expect to spend more on certain food products because of the drought, according to the report.
“For cattle and beef, once the market processes the excess animals sent to slaughter and has a smaller breeding herd to operate, [los aumentos de precios] can be from six months to more than a year. For specialty crops, it can be right after harvest,” said Daniel Munch, an economist with the American Farm Bureau Federation.
The vast majority of fruits, nuts and vegetables come from states that have high levels of drought. But farmers were forced to give up planting or destroy orchards. This “will likely result in U.S. consumers paying more for these products and being partially dependent on foreign supplies or reducing the diversity of items they buy in the store,” the report said.
For example, California grows 80% of the world’s supply of almonds, limiting other places where American consumers can buy the popular nut. And changing where almonds can grow is not easy, as the crop needs a specific climate and soil.
“Overall, the outlook for the volume of the 2022 crop is more pessimistic than a month ago and much more pessimistic than two months ago,” notes a July report from The Almond Board of California. The main culprits were drought, low water supply and the removal of orchards.
The August inflation report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that US consumers are spending 9.3% more on fruits and vegetables than a year ago.