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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 08/01/12
Above, Schapman said the drought conditions are causing him to lose out on corn, which in turn will reduce the amount of feed he has for his cattle.
(Observer photo by Chris Gray)
Farmers battle worst
drought in decades
Consumers can expect
to pay more for food
by CHRIS GRAYRich Schapman of Ingleside Farms in Bruce Township said he may have to liquidate some of his 2,000 cattle since he may not have enough feed to raise them.
Observer Staff Writer
It isn't from a lack of foresight, however
Schapman, like other farmers around the state and the nation, are trying to figure out how to survive the worst drought seen in decades.
The conditions will affect more than the livelihoods of farmers, though, as experts say consumers will see a rise in food prices as farmers struggle to harvest a decent crop.
A report released from the U.S. Department of Agriculture states 55 percent of the nation's pastures and rangelands were in "poor" to "very poor" conditions. States like Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Nebraska are experiencing drought conditions not seen since 1956.
In Michigan, the conditions are some of the driest since 1988. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Detroit/Pontiac office reports since June 1, the local area is 2.54 inches below the normal amount of precipitation.
Amos Dodson, meteorologist with the Detroit/Pontiac NOAA, said warmer temperatures are playing a factor in the drought conditions, but the lack of rain is the biggest contribution to the "flash drought."
"It really has been over the past few months that the dry conditions have really accelerated," he said.
As of July 26, 91 percent of the state is experiencing drought conditions ranging from dry to extreme, up from 82 percent in the prior week. Macomb County's condition was labeled as "abnormally dry."
The conditions have wreaked havoc on local farmers and growers. Schapman said he expects 80 percent of his soybeans to be harvested and hopes for at least 70 percent of his corn to survive.
"We need inches of rain, and we need 'em pretty quick," he said.
Phil Kaatz, Michigan State University Extention educator for forages and field crops, said he has seen a wide range of damage in Macomb and Lapeer counties.
"I believe this is worse than the drought we had in 1988," he said.
The damage has a ripple effect on other products. He said if the drought continues into the rest of summer and the fall, farmers' livestock may need to be liquidated and farmers will likely see a field crop loss of 20 percent or more.
"It's very difficult to know what we have, but this drought will have a huge economic inpact on our farmers in the area," he said.
He said the growth difficulties will contribute to a rise in food prices, whether it's for vegetables, beef or even milk.
"The price of corn and soybeans has already risen," Kaatz said. "Most cattle in the U.S. that go for meat production are finished on corn, so if corn is more expensive it's going to be more expensive to finish those cattle."
He said those farms that irrigate can supplement the water needed for their plants, but it simply isn't the same as having rainfall.
George VanHoutte of VanHoutte Farms said he has used irrigation to keep his farm's crops going, but is still struggling with the weather.
"We irrigate some sweet corn, then it gets to 80 to 100 degree weather and it all ripens up at one time," he said. "We're only supposed to have so much coming in, and we have three times the normal amount coming in."
He said farmers in Michigan are enduring the drought better than other states in the Midwest, but added the conditions have him wishing he'll make 10 percent on his profit.
"We just hope we can make a living this year," he said. "If it wasn't for the rain we had before the Fourth of July we would've been in real trouble."
The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is calling for near to above normal temperatures and precipitation totals for Aug. 1-7 in Michigan.