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The High Price of No Rain

August 2, 2012, 10:07 PM by Austin Hoffman

The High Price of No Rain

It's been a tough summer for farmers to say the least.

Portions of South Dakota have recently received some rain, but it wasn't enough to offset what some are saying has been a year long lack of moisture. And the costs are adding up.

"I am scared to death," Dairy Farmer Doug Ode said.

The lack of moisture isn't just drying up fields across South Dakota. It's also taking a heavy toll on farmer’s bottom line.

"Since May corn has gone up about $2.20 a bushel. Hay, good alfalfa hay, has gone from $190 to pushing $300, so that's $100 a ton more. Our concentrates have gone up approximately $50 a ton," Ode said.

Ode has grown up milking cows on Royalwood Farms just south of Brandon. He says their total costs have gone up around 25 percent since May.

"People might go into the survival mode where, hey, were going to take stuff out to cheapen the ration up," Ode said. "But, you know, if you do that you're going to lose some production, but you have to balance it out."

Dairy producers aren't alone in the struggle. Dried up corn fields are throwing a much unwanted twist in this year's crop harvest.

"Last year we had corn that was over 200 bushels an acre, that was a good year," Freeman Farmer Steve Graber said.

Graber says this year he's hoping to get 40 bushels an acre. That's less than a quarter of what he got last year. As harvests fall short and commodity prices soar, many say you'll see the difference at the grocery store.

"Meat will go down for a while because you're going to see so many cattle coming to market and you're going to see dispersions of livestock and then there's going to be a shortage down the road because people are simply not going to buy those expensive feed stuffs and lose money doing it," Graber said.

"I think everything; everything will go up no matter what you're looking at. Food, you'll see it first in the food, of course. It’s going to be scary," Ode said.

Both men say insurance will help make up the difference, but it won't bring them anywhere near where they should be.

"Mother Nature can throw some pretty viscous curves to you but you have to be optimistic, an eternal optimist," Ode said.

And while this summer has been hard, if the dry spell spills into next year, it could be life changing.

"It's a scary, scary year, you know. If we'd have another year like this, I don't know what would happen," Ode said.

"If next year is dry, that separates the men from the boys. That would be serious," Graber said.

But now all they can do is hope and rely on the people around them to get them through this tough time.

"You just have each other and you have, you know, you go out and you do your job and if you're not rewarded you still have each other and that's important," Graber said.

"There are days where you can get pretty depressed, but there's always tomorrow. Good and bad comes out of it I guess," Ode said.

Ode says the heat doesn't just affect the crops. Because of numerous days in a row of extremely hot weather, their milk production has also slowed down.

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