Drought meeting held in southeast Iowa

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad hosted a public meeting Tuesday in Mt. Pleasant to discuss the drought and its impact on the state.

“It’s important that we do all we can to help people through this difficult time,” Branstad says, “and obviously more rain would help.”

Farmer Wayne Humphreys of Columbus Junction told Branstad that he thinks 30 percent of this year’s corn potential has already been lost.   Humphreys looks for a statewide average corn yield of only 120 to 130 bushels per acre.

Farmers told Branstad that federal crop insurance will help them survive.  Federal officials say about 90 percent of Iowa grain farmers have crop insurance that will cover drought losses.

However, it’s a different story for livestock producers, who once again face extremely high feed costs.  Branstad says he fears a massive liquidation of livestock herds in Iowa.

“I know last year with the drought in Texas we saw them liquidate a lot of cattle,” Branstad told reporters. “We’d hate to see that happen in Iowa. We are the leading pork producing state. Our cattle numbers have been coming up and that’s made a real difference in the state of Iowa’s revenue situation.”

Iowa State University swine specialist Tom Miller suggests the drought may forever alter the make-up of the pork industry.

“Our industry has kind of been consolidating over the last 10 or 15 years and the people probably most at risk of going out of businesses through this are the smaller, medium-sized farms and the ones that have been the younger producers that don’t have as much equity,” Miller says. “And we really hate to see those people exit the industry.”

State Climatologist Harry Hillaker told the gathering that, statewide, this year’s drought is not yet quite as bad as the last major drought in 1988.  But in Hillaker’s words: “Things probably will get worse before they get better.”

Radio Iowa and KILJ, Mt Pleasant contributed to this report.

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