(CNN) — Nearly three-quarters of American farmers say this year’s drought is hurting their crop, with significant crop and income losses, according to a new survey from the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), an insurance company and lobby group representing agricultural interests.
This year’s drought conditions are taking a higher toll than last year, with 37% of farmers saying they are plowing up and killing existing crops that will not reach maturity due to dry conditions. That’s an increase of 24% from last year, according to the survey.
July 2022 was the third hottest July recorded in US history and ranked in the top 10 for every western state except Montana, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information. The weekly crop and weather bulletinthe U.S. Department of Agriculture ending the week of August 6 reported that “a rapidly intensifying drought gripped the southern and central Plains and mid-South, depleting soil moisture and significantly stressing grasslands , pastures and various summer crops”.
The AFBF estimates that nearly 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 have had to make the devastating decision to either sell the livestock they have spent years raising or destroy the fruit trees. that have grown for decades,” said Zippy Duvall, president of the AFBF.
The AFBF survey was conducted in 15 states from June 8 to July 20 in regions of extreme drought from Texas to North Dakota to California, accounting for nearly half the value of the country’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 multi-year trees and crops because of the drought, the survey found, which will affect future income. And 33% of all US farmers said they have had to do the same, nearly double the number last year.
Cattle sale due to drought
Texas farmers are 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 greatest reduction in herd size, down 50%, followed by New Mexico and Oregon at 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,” he told CNN. last month David Anderson, a professor of agricultural economics at Texas A&M.
Access to water for livestock has been 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, which are operating below 30% of their maximum capacity, typically provide water to 2 million hectares 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 shortage condition for the first time beginning in January. That means Arizona, Nevada and Mexico will have to further reduce their use of Colorado River water.
High inflation makes it more difficult for ranchers to save their land. The cost of diesel is falling, but remains high, making it significantly more expensive to truck 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 due to 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] could be from six months to more than a year. For specialty crops, it could 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 have been forced to give up planting or destroy orchards. This “will likely result in US 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 states.
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 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 American consumers are spending 9.3% more on fruits and vegetables than they were a year ago.