Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds announced at the 2012 Iowa Farm Bureau Economics Summit Monday that Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack had announced CRP lands will be opened up for emergency mowing and grazing.
She says the main concern is the hay supply for Iowa's livestock producers, and state highway margins are available for hay through a DOT permit. "We are currently looking at ways to waive certain state regulations to transport grain shipments to pork and cattle producers," she says, noting concerns addressed at weekly conference calls with leaders of commodity groups in Iowa. "We want to make sure that we're hearing and understand the concerns of all those impacted by the drought."
Reynolds says the state and Governor Branstad remain diligent in finding sources of feed for producers, and that finding ways to make it through the drought is important to all Iowa. "Iowa certainly has come a long way since the Farm Crisis and I know we can make it through these hard times," she says. "The resilience, the fortitude of the Iowa farmer is unmatched and second to none."
How long do we have to wait?
Despite small amounts of rain this week, Iowa may have to wait for more. Following the patterns of previous droughts, most notably 1988, ISU Extension climatologist Elwynn Taylor estimates at least three more weeks of dry weather into August.
Taylor says the ever-changing climate is following a pattern, and this year marks the start of a 25-year period of erratic yields. "The crop yield will be cut by the same percentage it was then," he says, noting the impact of drought in 1934 and `1936. "We have to assume the same weather conditions will cause the same percentage change in the yield." With that in mind, Taylor notes this year's losses. "The U.S. yield has lost 8% of its yield already," he says. "From the way the pattern looks, we're losing another 7 to 8%."
However, he notes this can be managed better by considering the weather's affects on crops, specifically soil moisture and night temperature. "The warm nights have a definite impact," he says, adding that with the development that occurs at night, the temperature has a much more significant impact. "Management for climate change has to consider the maturity that happens at night." Taylor addressed volatility, and encouraged producers to take this into consideration, as it is particularly important during drought. "It is a future of different opportunities," he notes. "But remember that these opportunities have to be handled in the right way."