As of July 17, almost 60% of Iowa was classified as being in a severe drought. The lack of rain and high temperatures have stunted crop growth and caused a myriad of problems for livestock farmers. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, droughts can cause economic stress throughout an area, and while the results are not immediate, like that of a flood, everyone is affected.
Despite the current poor weather conditions, many local farmers are familiar with being confronted with less than stellar weather conditions. "Last year, we had to deal with the wind. This year we have to deal with the lack of rain. It's just another one of those things you have to deal with," said Wade Wilson, who farms just outside of Dysart. Wilson began farming in 1988, the year of the last major drought.
"Most farmers would just as soon raise a good crop. This is just kind of a little speed bump in doing that. We do what we can do and let Mother Nature do the rest," said Wilson, who is thankful for the little rain that he has gotten that many farmers in other areas of Iowa have not.
Above right, Ryan Bayse checks on his Guinea hogs. The hogs were developed in the south and do well in the heat. The Bayses provide pools of water for the hogs, which have made their own wallows to keep cool. Below right, Wade Wilson and his son, Gage, water one of the five trees that he planted to replace trees lost in the wind storm of 2011. Keeping the trees watered is a task that makes Wade thankful that he only planted five trees this year.
According to the USDA, as of July 22, 21% of corn in Iowa was in good condition and only 2% in excellent condition. 25% of soybeans in Iowa were classified in good condition with only 3% in excellent condition. The majority of the crops were between fair and poor condition.
"I think there's still potential. I think considering how little rain we've had. I think that things in this general area look fairly well," said Wilson, who reports seeing fewer insects and fewer crop diseases this year.
Stacie Buhr, the production plant manager at the Pioneer plant near Dysart, has similar hopes. "We are fortunate in the Dysart area to have very productive soils and have caught a few timely rain showers, but we have a lot of growing season left and are hopeful for additional rains prior to harvest. Pioneer is very strategic on our acreage planning throughout the country. We spread our acres across a wide geographic area to ensure that we are a reliable supplier to our customers," Buhr said.
Livestock farmers have another battle to fight to keep animals cool and supplied with fresh water. The Iowa Cattelmen's Association encouraged Iowa cattle producers to watch cattle closely during the high temperatures. Cattle rely on respiration to cool down and producers have to consider how to keep cattle cool during temperatures in the upper 90s and 100s.
For the Bayse family, who run the Misty Valley Farm outside of Dysart, the impact of the drought will be felt more so in the coming months than immediately. The Bayses run a homesteading farm and lean towards organic and natural practices. Ryan Bayse reports that he has not had to mow the lawn in weeks, which may seem like a blessing to some, but is problematic for him.
"I can usually save the clippings and ensilage them in 55 gallon barrels. On a good day, I can densely pack eight barrels. This goes a long way toward feeding the pigs in the winter, and chickens if I wanted to," Bayse said. The Bayses expect a new cow soon and while they would normally rely on clippings, they will have to purchase food for the cow, which will be an added expense.
According to the Iowa Farm Bureau, the drought may cause the price of food to rise, although not immediately. As farmers who purchase grain for animal feed deal with the higher corn prices, as a result of lower yields, the price of meat, dairy and eggs will increase at the grocery store, which will impact everyone?not just farmers.
"It's just something we have to deal with. We hope it rains soon, but if it doesn't, we just have to go with plan B, whatever that is," Wilson said.
While farmers are hoping for the best, the long term effects of the drought are looming ahead. Wilson stresses the importance of farmers having the right temperament for the job and being able to go with all of the ups and downs of farming. While short rain storms only provide temporary relief, farmers welcome any rain and are still holding out for soaking rain storms to diminish their worries and increase their yields.