Nearly a month after Hurricane Sandy smashed into the northeast, we are still hearing from singers, actors and politicians pleading on behalf of the victims, asking for donations and assistance to help residents rebuild their lives.
The hurricane was horrible and devastating and my heart goes out to the victims who are now forced to find new homes, vehicles and household items. But the nation’s attention and the media’s spotlight seems to have forgotten about the natural disaster that has and continues to grip much of the Midwest.
The drought, which is going on its second year on our farm in Central Kansas, has no name and record-setting winds and rain, but has left its mark on millions of acres of pasture and farmland and forced thousands of farmers and ranchers from their land and their way of life. It has decimated pastures, dried up ponds and left once vital farmland useless and unproductive.
In fact, a new report from Reuters shows an expansion of the drought and continued tough times for those in the agriculture industry.
“Drought is tightening its grip on the central United States as winter weather sets in, threatening to ravage the new wheat crop and spelling more hardship for farmers and ranchers already weary of the costly and ongoing dry conditions. While conditions started to improve earlier in November, they turned harsh to close out the month as above-normal temperatures and below-normal precipitation proved a dire combination in many regions, according to the Drought Monitor, a weekly compilation of data gathered by federal and academic scientists issued Thursday.” – Reuters
My husband and I are “those” farmers. The ones directly impacted by the drought, who are pinning their hopes on a wet winter and moist spring, a plentiful wheat crop, greener pastures and full ponds. If things don’t change – and forecasts are not looking promising – we will be forced to find new sources of feed for our cattle in the spring, our wheat will have another poor year and our fall crops will likely fail to produce a productive food source. Crop insurance will cover some of our costs but they don’t consider the input and labor costs that go into planting and tending the crops. They also fail to replace all of the lost income. Income we count on to pay our bills, feed our families and continue our lifestyle. The drought is scary, nerve-wracking and completely out of our control and it’s a natural disaster that has caused more damage than hurricanes and earthquakes.
But while Kansas is considered one of the hardest hit states, we have no famous faces asking the world to come to our rescue. We are part of the forgotten natural disaster that is slowly but surely destroying our land, our crops and our way of life.
We, as farmers, are not asking for handouts and we don’t need the nation’s sympathy. What we do ask for is a continued recognition of the situation from lawmakers as Congress continues to procrastinate on its passage of the farm bill, a consideration for the ongoing natural disaster plaguing the middle section of the country and handicapping our ability to produce food, fiber and fuel for the country. The impact may not be as intense and instantaneous but the impacts are just as devastating. Hurricane Sandy is long gone but the drought is alive and well and its continuing its grip on our farm and our way of life.