Path Home Shows 2014 Show Archive September 2014 Show 1437 Rough Years for Farmers

Rough Years for Farmers

Oklahoma’s ongoing drought has taken both financial and emotional tolls on farmers.
Rough Years for Farmers

Rough Years for Farmers

National Weather Center


Oklahoma Farmers & Ranchers Association

American Meteorological Society

Show Details

Show 1437: Rough Years for Farmers
Air Date: September 14, 2014



Rob McClendon: And whether we are at the end of our drought or not, we will examine that a bit later in our show. But I do want to continue with the impact drought is having on Oklahoma agriculture. Joining me now is our Courtney Maye.

Courtney Maye: Drought can take both a financial and emotional toll on farmers. And that is the story we heard from a panel of ag producers at this year’s weather symposium.

Courtney: It’s been a rough four years for farmers in Oklahoma. Roger Fischer grew up hearing stories of the Dust Bowl and now has an idea of the struggles his family faced.

Roger Fischer: For 60 days we had temperatures over a hundred with winds just howling every day so that’s one of my most vivid memories of the drought, getting up and it would still be blowing in the morning, and it’s quite discouraging to wake up and the wind still be blowing and dealing with that. It’s one thing to hear about it, but to live and to feel it and to live it on the farm is very -- that’s very difficult also knowing that it effects your livestock and the crops that just cannot stand up to that kind of adversity.

Courtney: Fischer was one of three producers who spoke at the Ag Weather Symposium – all from different parts of the state but with similar problems.

Dan Herald: 2011 was the first year we didn’t harvest anything for about 20 years, so it was a difficult lesson learned, but we started working on efficiencies.

Chuck Coffey: We ended up cutting back by about -- or reducing our herd by about 50 percent, if you combine both 2011 and 2012. And in 2013, we started to restock and have increased to about what I would consider 75 percent of average.

Roger Fischer: Our purpose is to produce food for the nation and for the world, as we’re told. And so we take that very seriously. So anything that reduces that ability or inhibits that ability is very difficult.

Courtney: But for every dark cloud there are some silver linings.

Coffey: Reduced cattle numbers have helped or been part of the driving factor of increased prices. So today I’m actually probably more profitable with less cows than I was prior to the drought with more cows, because of prices. So I see that as a tremendous opportunity.

Herald: It’s caused us to focus more on maximizing efficiencies, minimizing unneeded inputs that we can do with and to be adaptive and to be aware of what’s going on. We have to be better marketers and make better choices as we go forward for efficiency.

Courtney: But it’s still not easy. Despite recent rainfall, the drought is so devastating, recovering from it takes time.

Fischer: It’s almost unbelievable. We had four to six inches of rain in the June and July period there, and we still have dry ponds. We have some ponds with zero water.

Courtney: Yet all these farmers share a resilience that keeps them going back to their fields.

Courtney: Now, while good soaking rains can turn around a farmer’s fortune almost immediately – it’s a different story with cattle. When pastures dried up in 2011, many ranchers sold off more cattle than they might have otherwise, and it takes a while to build back a herd.

Rob: So what could that mean then for consumers?

Courtney: Well, if you grilled steaks or hot dogs this summer, you might have noticed that prices increased. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, beef and pork prices have climbed more than 11 percent since last summer.

Rob: All right. Thank you so much, Courtney.

Courtney: You’re welcome, Rob.

Rob: Now, when we return, we’ll look at drought from a historical perspective.