The worst drought in half a century has devastated farmers across the country this summer, and few have been as devastated as those in the major farm state of Nebraska. There, most of the state is experiencing an “extreme drought,” with the remaining parts experiencing a more mild “severe drought.”
Paul Adams from the BBC recently caught up with some of these farmers. In an audio essay, host John Hockenberry discusses what Paul found, and the implications of this weather disaster.
Nebraska farmer Andy Devries paints a dismal picture of the desolation brought on by this summer's record temperatures. "The majority of my fields have probably not had an inch of rain since the last week of April," he says. "We may have had a tenth or a quarter [of an inch], but as dry as it is, a quarter's like spitting on the ground." Devries and his fellow farmers have taken to rationing water to select rows of their fields.
Cattle ranchers have been forced to sell off vast sections of their herds.
"I had to liquidate some cows off the ranch, and clean the ranch up," says Rick Grove, who has seen less than two inches of rain in 13 months. The drought has forced ranchers' hands on difficult decisions. "Usually, you have time to make a calculation. Now, you've got to make a decision real quick. Do we split our calves? Do we wean early? Do we liquidate everything? Will it be worse next year? You never know."
Grove's been in the cattle business for 40 years, and says he's never seen anything like the current conditions that are plaguing the American Midwest.