Nebraska Farm Bureau is asking USDA's Farm Service Agency to be aware of and prepared for drought conditions that have started impacting Nebraska farmers and ranchers.
"We've heard from our members across western and southern Nebraska that pasture and other crop conditions are deteriorating rapidly as a combination of high heat, high winds and a lack of moisture have many farmers and ranchers concerned," according to Steve Nelson, Farm Bureau president.
"Most concerning are reports from the Panhandle counties which indicate on-ground conditions are very similar to the beginnings of the 2002 drought."
In a letter to USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Farm and Foreign Agriculture Services Michael Scuse, Nelson noted that while the lack of moisture and conditions in Nebraska are not yet as severe as the drought experienced in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas, the dry conditions of those areas have already put a significant strain on Nebraska's grass and hay resources.
"Over the past two years, cattle from those areas have made their way into Nebraska. At the same time, much of the Nebraska hay reserves were sent to those areas to provide needed forage for the cattle that remained. If dry conditions persist, we could face a scenario where a lack of feed sources would put a significant strain on Nebraska's cattle industry," Nelson said.
Nebraska became the country's second-largest cattle producing state in 2011, witnessing a 4% increase in total cattle numbers due in large part to the movement of cattle into Nebraska from drought-stricken states. Nebraska's cattle industry adds over $7 billion to Nebraska's economy each year.
In the letter to Scuse, Nelson reiterated the need for USDA to continue to monitor the drought situation in Nebraska and to be ready to act if conditions continue to deteriorate. "While the last few years have been profitable for Nebraska agriculture, a drought can change things in a hurry and those economic impacts go well beyond the farm gate. Nebraska has largely escaped the economic downturn that has gripped much of the country due to its strong agriculture economy," Nelson said.