Beef help

9/17/2013

Emergency moves now fact of life in drought.

Emergency moves now fact of life in drought.

Recent rainfall in the region was refreshing, as always.

Yet as welcome as any precipitation may be, the rain wasn't nearly enough to cure the lingering pain of drought.

Another reminder of as much came in a request from officials in Kansas to extend emergency haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program land.

State Agriculture Secretary Dale Rodman urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grant an extension through Nov. 30. The same step was taken during last year's drought without landowners incurring penalties in the form of a rental payment reduction.

The state has 2.15 million acres enrolled in CRP.

Years of drought have hindered farmers' ability to produce hay or to provide forage and pasture for livestock. Allowing ranchers to continue accessing that forage could be the difference between maintaining a cow herd or facing liquidation.

Feedlots and meatpacking plants also have been feeling the heat of severe drought for years. Soaring grain prices driven by drought mean more expensive livestock feed — so costly that cattle numbers continue to drop as feedlots find it tougher to survive.

It's a huge economic concern in Kansas, a state ranked third nationally with 5.85 million cattle on ranches and in feedyards as of Jan. 1, 2013, according to the Kansas Livestock Association. Kansas also was third in commercial cattle processed in 2011, with 6.4 million head.

When it comes to possible economic woes, the problem can extend well beyond Kansas. Difficulties for cattle producers also mean higher prices for consumers as the meat supply shrinks.

The environmental toll also mounts when drought persists.

The CRP was designed to protect the land. Specifically, the program was put in place to improve the quality of water, control soil erosion and enhance wildlife habitat.

Allowing relief to livestock producers by way of extending emergency haying and grazing on CRP land should only be a temporary fix.

Drought's fallout tends to materialize in many ways. The latest request regarding CRP land would be just one more reminder of how far-reaching the impact of painfully dry conditions continue to be in parts of the region.

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