ARTICLE

Drought could hit livestock producers much harder than grain farmers

Federal insurance programs don't help livestock producers, Branstad hears at drought meeting

Wayne Humphreys, a farmer and member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, holds cornstalks from his field that he said were deteriorating because of the drought during a public forum in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Corn and livestock producers warned Branstad that tough times are looming for farmers and the state's powerful agriculture industries as the drought gripping the state and nation gets worse. (AP Photo/Ryan J. Foley)
Wayne Humphreys, a farmer and member of the Iowa Corn Growers Association, holds cornstalks from his field that he said were deteriorating because of the drought during a public forum in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, on Tuesday, July 17, 2012. Corn and livestock producers warned Branstad that tough times are looming for farmers and the state's powerful agriculture industries as the drought gripping the state and nation gets worse. (AP Photo/Ryan J. Foley)

UPDATE: While federal crop insurance will help Iowa grain farmers survive the drought, many livestock producers, who lack such protection, will not, according to Bill Tentinger of LeMars, president of the Iowa Pork Producers Association.

High corn prices – now approaching $8 a bushel -- will force many pork producers out of business, Tentinger said Tuesday at a drought status meeting called by Gov. Terry Branstad.

“I know how grain farmers will benefit. I do both (row crops and hogs),” Tentinger said.

Farmer Wayne Humphreys of Columbus Junction called federal crop insurance “wonderful” and “absolutely critical” for grain farmers this year.

“I think this year’s drought is worse than the one in 1988, but we will come out a lot better because of crop insurance,” which was not widely available until 1994, he said.

Statewide, this year’s drought is not yet quite as bad as 1988’s, but “things probably will get worse before they get better,” said State Climatologist Harry Hillaker.

“This crop is in trouble,” said Humphreys, who brought a stunted, earless corn stalk to the meeting as a visual aid.

Humphreys, 62, a farmer for the past 40 years, said he thinks 30 percent of this year’s corn crop potential has already been lost. “I’d say we are looking at a statewide average of 120 to 130 bushels per acre,” he said.

Livestock producers, who’ve had to bear a $2.75 per bushel increase in corn prices since early June, will be the most severely impacted, said Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau, who raises hogs and grain in Warren County. The new farm bill pending in Congress should include some provisions to help distressed livestock producers, he said.

While the drought’s impact on crops is plain to see, it is much less visible on livestock producers, Branstad said.

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