Drought Could Increase Costs for Farmers, Consumers

By Max Resnik

June 21, 2012 Updated Jun 21, 2012 at 6:14 PM EDT

BUTLER, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) – The National Weather Service issued a severe drought shortly after noon, and the effects on the growing season for farmers could mean greater costs for consumers at grocery stores.

In Butler, Ken and Kerry Carnahan, of K.D. Carnahan Farms Inc., are facing what they call the worst drought season they have ever seen. The Carnahan’s chief output is milk, having more than 200 dairy cows on their farm. The Carnahans also have hundreds of acres of fields stocked with alfalfa hay and corn.

The hay serves as the chief ingredient in the feed for the Carnahan’s cows, which gives them the necessary nutrients to produce milk that can be bought on store shelves in the Northeast Indiana area. Right now, according to Kerry, the hay is a little more than a foot tall. He says the crop is half the size it should be right now and is about two weeks behind schedule for harvest. Kerry says that if the drought continues and the hay remains behind schedule, the Carnahans may have to travel out of the area to purchase hay. Having to purchase hay drives up their costs, and that in turn, will drive up the cost milk.

"If we don't get any hay or any corn, ultimately, we're going to have to go far enough to get some, which is going to cost us more and on down. And the quality of it is going to affect production and it could make the price of milk go up."

When asked how long he has been farming, Kerry says his whole life. He is 57-years-old. Kerry says in all of his years of farming, only the drought of 1988 compares to the May-June drought of 2012. Kerry says this drought takes the cake.

The Carnahan’s corn crop also appears to be behind schedule, but it is unclear just how far behind it might be. Right now, the crop is about knee-high in length, perhaps 18 inches tall. Kerry says it should be twice the size at this point in the season. Kneeling down to look at his crop, Kerry points at how the leaves seem curled, clinging to their stalks, fighting for any moisture left in the ground. He says the crop looks its best early in the morning and during evening hours when the sun’s presence has lessened and the heat is not as severe.

"It's nice to go out early in the morning or late at night because the crops look better because it cools down. You know, in the heat of the day they just really look bad. They all curl up trying to save moisture."

When asked if installing an irrigation system is an option, the Carnahans say that is too costly. For now, they will have to wait for the skies to open to give their crops—especially the hay—the fuel needed to survive. Only then can the cows receive their fuel and ensure that the price of milk does not increase for consumers at the grocery store.

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