The first of four drought workshops organized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture was held Tuesday in Omaha. U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said this year’s historic drought has highlighted the “resiliency” of American agriculture and the capacity of farmers to embrace new technologies and new techniques.
“One of the reasons why we’re potentially going to see yields a little bit higher than we anticipated is because of our farmers acceptance of new seed technologies, in particular, that have allowed yields to be greater than anticipated because the crops are more resilient,” Vilsack said.
“At the same time, our farmers have embraced conservation…and perhaps they’ve been able to retain the moisture more effectively than they have in the past.” Vilsack, a former Iowa governor, said the lack of new Farm Bill will likely delay the federal response to the drought. He added the drought’s impact extends far beyond the family farm.
“I think we learned today there are a lot of implications to this drought that you might think of at first. Just as an example, the impact on tourism, the impact on energy supplies, the impact on water resources for our communities,” Vilsack said. “This extends, obviously, beyond the serious impact it has on our producers.”
Many workshop attendees agreed the livestock industry faces the biggest challenges in the months ahead – with tight supplies of feed grains and high prices. Matt Swantek, an Iowa State University Extension swine program specialist, said pork producers are definitely concerned about cash flow.
“What’s it going to take to stay in business and be able to…maintain livestock numbers? When this does turn, it’s going to be a turn for the good, which has always been the case in the past,” Swantek said. “But if we don’t have pigs out there to take advantage of it, there’s not going to be an opportunity (to stay in business) long term.”
Three more workshops are scheduled to discuss resources available to assist with drought recovery efforts. Those meetings will be held in Pueblo, Colorado; Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and a site to be determined in Ohio.