It’s been a hard year for farmers and ranchers who are squeezed by a volatile economy and an unrelenting drought.
Those in the agriculture businesses say challenges from both have a profound impact on their livelihood and our way of life.
On his farm in Ellis County, John Dineen said farming instincts often remind him of his mother’s and grandmother’s biscuits.
“A lot of those ladies had done it enough and they didn’t need a timer,” Dineen said. “They could kind of tell when those biscuits were getting ready.”
And just like that, most generational ranchers and farmers have enough experience to know when things are taking a turn.
“Well, you know, as a producer over the years. You kind of just kind of get a feeling when things are getting bad. You get a feeling in your stomach,” he said.
Times are hard and many factors are at play. For starters, the US Department of Agriculture says much of Texas is facing extreme or exceptional drought conditions – the two highest intensity levels on the monitor.
“This is Texas. We expect to be hot in later July and August,” said Dineen. “But to start the first part of June being really excessively hot and dry is way out of the ordinary.”
Water is scarce and the impact is crippling. A looming recession and supply chain issues only worsen the situation.
“It’s a lot of anxiety,” he said. “And you’re praying you’re making the right decision.”
Steven Beakley is a rancher in Ellis County. Inflation has hit them hard. He said it’s been a snowball effect.
“An individual that was fertilizing hay a year ago for $40 an acre is now spending $100 an acre to fertilize his hay. Well, now he has to sell hay for two or three times higher than what it should be,” said Beakley.
Jarrod Montford has a ranch in Wise County. He spoke to NBC 5 from an agriculture convention in Corpus Christi. He talked about the residual impact drought has on the industry.
“We need water for our cattle to drink. We also need water for our grass to grow. And when we run out of water for our grass to grow, we can survive a little bit. But when we run out of drinking water, we’re done,” Montford said.
Montford said, overall, farmers and ranchers will survive but bankruptcies are inevitable.
“It’s going to derail some producers. It’s going to derail some farmers,” he said. “The cost is what’s bad. The cost of getting it produced. We’ve never seen anything like this.”
In August, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service will host a beef cattle conference to address the difficult decisions many ranchers are faced with.