Farmers’ yield hurt by summer drought

While the harsh weather conditions this summer may have allowed for extra pool days, the drought has also caused harsher repercussions for Midwestern farmers and other agriculture industries.

According to the National Weather Service, this has been the worst drought in the country since 1988.

“Droughts happen periodically,” said Patrick Bak, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Lincoln, Ill. “But they don’t last forever and things tend to balance out in time.”

However, this summer’s drought has caused corn yields to decrease substantially, hurting profits for farmers and drying out their fields and pastures. Since Illinois tends to have very rich soil, several farms do not have irrigation systems to combat the effects of the dry conditions.

Adam Sommer, sophomore in ACES, said his family never had a need for an irrigation system at their farm in northwest Illinois until the drought this summer. In hopes of seeing more green, they decided to spray nitrogen on their fields but when no green appeared — “basically the only thing left to do was sit and wait for rain to come,” Sommers said.

“We can plant again and hope that the next year is better.”

Although Sommers’ family will not know the full impact of the drought on the farm’s yields and profits until the end of harvest, Sommers estimates they will only break even or make a slight profit. Sommers said that as a result of the federal crop insurance program, the losses could have been worse.

“Some farmers around us have to go into town and get a job,” Sommers said. “We’ll be all right, but a lot of people won’t.”

Claire Benjamin, president of the RSO Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow and junior in ACES, said her family is facing significant yield loss and is thankful for the insurance they have.

“Several farmers I have spoken to are reporting zero yields in some fields — an occurrence I had never even heard of before,” Benjamin said.

Many farmers throughout the Midwest have been forced to sell their cattle because of the expense of bringing in outside water as well as paying for feed. Feed has increased in cost because corn prices have gone up more than 50 percent since mid-June, reaching $8.50 a bushel this month.

Corn prices have not only taken a toll on hungry cattle but have also contributed to the closing of six ethanol plants. Bob Dinneen, CEO of the national trade group the Renewable Fuels Association, said ethanol production has dropped 20 percent nationally since the beginning of this year.

This summer’s drought has catalyzed a series of issues for the agricultural market, which consequently ties into several other markets in the country.

As for now, Bak said the drought has not yet improved in Illinois, but he predicts things will get better by fall.