Severe impacts of Midwest drought could speed passage of Farm Bill

July 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm 1 comment

More than half of the land in the U.S. and Puerto Rico is now in moderate to exceptional drought conditions and farmers, businesses, and ultimately consumers are feeling the severe impacts. With grasses drying out and lack of water to irrigate crops, farmers are struggling to keep their crops and livestock alive.

 

 

National Public Radio’s Talk of the Nation did an extensive piece last week looking at the impacts of the drought on farmers. Here is just one story of a farmer in Kansas:

Nathan Pike is a guy who was born in the Dust Bowl and has lived on this ranch with his closest neighbor being two miles away, which he considers pretty close, for most of – he’s lived in the area his entire life and on this ranch all his adult life. And he has had to cull his cattle herd significantly because he doesn’t have feed. He doesn’t have food for them. His grass that never dies, his buffalo grass, his native short grass, prairie grass, has died, most of it has died.

The effects are far reaching. Many of these communities rely also on tourism, but with water levels in lakes and rivers so low, recreation, such as rafting or fishing, on these waterways will be limited– having an additional economic impact on the region. Small businesses across the nation will also feel the effects, with rising prices for fuel and food. In fact, the Small Business Administration is offering up to $2 million in disaster assistance loans to non-farm businesses and nonprofits in the affected regions.

The House of Representatives may vote next week on a disaster relief bill to assist farmers in the drought regions. Depending on the terms of the bill, it could cost from $300 million to a few billion dollars. Some have speculated that this drought bill could open up a pathway to pass the 2012 Farm Bill, which has not been able to move and will likely not be acted upon before the current Farm Bill expires.

The drought has raised some awareness of the role of farmers in our economy, but perhaps not enough to mobilize support or action toward passing the Farm Bill. The impacts of the drought clearly show how our economic and agricultural systems are interconnected, and how they impact our daily lives. Small businesses, farmers, and consumers don’t exist in silos, but our public policies too often treat them as distinct and separate. It is necessary to start taking a more broad approach in designing our economic and agricultural policies that recognizes and builds upon their interconnectedness.

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Entry filed under: Agriculture Policy, Economy, Farm Policy, Small Business. Tags: , .

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