Drought Could Have Mixed Impacts On Idaho Farmers

Jul 24, 2012

The drought that’s gripped much of the country is hurting farmers from Texas to North Dakota. And here in Idaho, the effects of drought could be mixed for farmers and consumers.

Take your average grocery bill. Expect it to go up because of the drought says Paul Paterson.  The agriculture economist with the University of Idaho says the decimation of Midwestern crops like corn and wheat will increase the cost of most processed foods.

But if you grow wheat in Idaho you could sell high this year and making good money. However, if you buy those mid-west crops you’re in trouble. Paterson says most Idaho dairy farmers are in for, what he calls, a world of hurt.

“When the price of corn or hay goes up, their cost to produce milk goes up," Paterson says. "Unfortunately here in recent months the price they’re receiving for their milk is heading down. In a situation like that, you know, you have very few alternatives. You have to keep feeding those cows.”

Some farmers squeezed by the drought may stop feeding their cows. Paterson says it’s harder to predict how that will impact Idaho. One possibility: a huge increase in cattle going to slaughter floods the market with meat and Idaho ranchers make little money for a while. Paterson adds, that could lead to a big dip in meat supplies down the road and then Idaho ranchers could sell high.