Skip to main content

Why the drought affects me -- and you

By Chris Chinn, Special to CNN
July 23, 2012 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Corn plants struggle to survive in a drought-stricken farm field near Oakton, Indiana.
Corn plants struggle to survive in a drought-stricken farm field near Oakton, Indiana.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chris Chinn's farm has been badly affected by the drought
  • She says the bill to feed her livestock is increasing fast because of crop losses
  • Chinn: The drought means taking on more debt and possibly selling off livestock
  • The drought will change lives on farms and will raise food prices for all, she says

Editor's note: Chris Chinn is a family farmer in Missouri. She adapted this essay from her blog.

(CNN) -- The drought of 2012 will be one that farmers and ranchers remember for years to come. My husband, Kevin, and I are fifth-generation farmers. This is the first drought we have experienced since we were married and started farming together in 1995.

Our farm, like most other U.S. farms, is really suffering right now and in desperate need of rain. The media have pegged it right: it definitely is the worst drought of our generation.

Kevin and I own and raise hogs, cattle, corn, soybeans and alfalfa hay on our farm. Typically, we don't have a lot of crops to farm, but this year we decided to rent an extra 200 acres for that purpose, doubling our row-crop acreage. We were able to purchase crop insurance for most of our crops, but unfortunately that alone will not help make our farm or equipment payments to the bank since most of our crops are ruined.

Chris Chinn
Chris Chinn

Our crop failure isn't what keeps me awake at night these days; it's worrying about our animals. No crops means no feed for livestock. We can't stop feeding cattle and hogs. We own 60 head of cattle, and our family has 1,500 sows on our farm. Bountiful crops are needed for an adequate feed supply, but so too are healthy pastures for cattle grazing. Both need rain.

Hogs eat mostly corn and soybeans because they are not ruminant animals, which means they do not have four stomach chambers like cattle, which can digest hay and grass. The price to purchase corn and soybeans is skyrocketing because of crop losses across most of the United States.

Unlike crop farmers, livestock farmers and ranchers do not have insurance programs to ease the losses during disaster years. When our feed costs get out of control, or when a disease devastates our herd, there is no relief from insurance. This is a total loss for farmers and ranchers. To pay the bills, we have to go to the bank and borrow more money to help us survive the storm. This means yet another loan payment.

Drought forces farmers to sell cattle
Farmers warn of drought's impact
Hog farmers struggling to feed livestock

When my expenses increase on our farm, it would be nice to tell the packer who buys my hogs that I need to be paid more so I can make ends meet. But it doesn't work that way.

Hogs feel drought's pinch

We are price takers; supply and demand drive the price we are paid for hogs. Even though my feed bills are increasing at alarming rates, right now it doesn't mean that pork demand has increased in line with my expenses. Farmers have to wait for an increase in demand, or decrease in supply, to see their prices increase.

I have been asked before why I just don't hold on to our hogs and wait for someone to pay me what I need to pay my feed bills. This is because packers only accept a certain weight so they can meet consumer demand.

Consumers want a consistent size piece of pork -- not too big or too small --and they want their chops to look the same each time they go to the store. To meet this demand, farmers can't sell hogs that are overweight or underweight.

The pain of this drought doesn't stop with farmers and ranchers.

Everyone has a vested interest in how Mother Nature is behaving. Food availability will be affected because farmers will be producing less food. In the end, this will lead to increased food prices. A number of livestock farmers and ranchers will be faced with difficult decisions. Some will be forced to leave the farm or ranch and find new jobs in neighboring towns, while others may have to sell their family farm or ranch.

The bottom line is: If you eat, this drought will affect you.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Chris Chinn.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
World War I ushered in an era of chemical weapons use that inflicted agonizing injury and death. Its lethal legacy lingers into conflicts today, Paul Schulte says
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2153 GMT (0553 HKT)
Mel Robbins says many people think there's "something suspicious" about Leanna Harris. But there are other interpretations of her behavior
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Newt Gingrich warns that President Obama's border plan spends too much and doesn't do what is needed
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1753 GMT (0153 HKT)
Amy Bass says Germany's rout of Brazil on its home turf was brutal, but in defeat the Brazilian fans' respect for the victors showed why soccer is called 'the beautiful game'
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1754 GMT (0154 HKT)
Errol Lewis says if it really wants to woo black voters away from the Democrats, the GOP better get behind its black candidates
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2107 GMT (0507 HKT)
Aaron Carroll explains how vaccines can prevent illnesses like measles, which are on the rise
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0008 GMT (0808 HKT)
Aaron Miller says if you think the ongoing escalation between Israel and Hamas over Gaza will force a moment of truth, better think again
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2241 GMT (0641 HKT)
Martin Luther King Jr. fought and died so blacks would no longer be viewed as inferior but rather enjoy the same inherent rights given to whites in America.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 1147 GMT (1947 HKT)
Alex Castellanos says recent low approval ratings spell further trouble for the President
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 0349 GMT (1149 HKT)
Paul Begala says Boehner's plan to sue Obama may be a stunt for the tea party, or he may be hoping the Supreme Court's right wing will advance the GOP agenda that he could not
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 1659 GMT (0059 HKT)
The rapture is a bizarre teaching in fundamentalist circles, made up by a 19th-century theologian, says Jay Parini. It may have no biblical validity, but is a really entertaining plot device in new HBO series
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1749 GMT (0149 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette: President Obama needs to send U.S. marshals to protect relocating immigrant kids.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1903 GMT (0303 HKT)
Norman Matloff says a secret wage theft pact between Google, Apple and others highlights ethics problems in Silicon Valley.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 2237 GMT (0637 HKT)
The mother of murdered Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khder cries as she meets Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, West Bank on July 7, 2014.
Naseem Tuffaha says the killing of Israeli teenagers has rightly brought the world's condemnation, but Palestinian victims like his cousin's slain son have been largely reduced to faceless, nameless statistics.
July 9, 2014 -- Updated 2028 GMT (0428 HKT)
Danny Cevallos says charging the dad in the hot car death case with felony murder, predicated on child neglect, was a smart strategic move.
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 1326 GMT (2126 HKT)
Van Jones says our nation is sitting on a goldmine of untapped talent. The tech companies need jobs, young Latinos and blacks need jobs -- so how about a training pipeline?
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
A drug that holds hope in the battle against hepatitis C costs $1,000 per pill. We can't solve a public health crisis when drug makers charge such exorbitant prices, Karen Ignagni says.
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1133 GMT (1933 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says our political environment is filled with investigations or accusations of another scandal; all have their roots in the scandal that brought down Richard Nixon
July 6, 2014 -- Updated 1814 GMT (0214 HKT)
Sally Kohn says Boehner's lawsuit threat is nonsense that wastes taxpayer money, distracts from GOP's failure to pass laws to help Americans
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1526 GMT (2326 HKT)
Speaker John Boehner says President Obama has circumvented Congress with his executive actions and plans on filing suit against the President this month
July 7, 2014 -- Updated 1331 GMT (2131 HKT)
Hands down, it's 'Hard Day's Night,' says Gene Seymour-- the exhilarating, anarchic and really fun big screen debut for the Beatles. It's 50 years old this weekend
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 2201 GMT (0601 HKT)
Belinda Davis says World War I plunged millions of women across the globe into "men's jobs," even as they kept home and hearth. The legacy continues into today.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1824 GMT (0224 HKT)
Pablo Alvarado says all the children trying to cross the U.S. border shows immigration is a humanitarian crisis that can't be solved with soldiers and handcuffs.
July 3, 2014 -- Updated 1151 GMT (1951 HKT)
Elizabeth Mitchell says Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi dreamt up the symbolic colossus not for money, but to embody a concept--an artwork to amaze for its own sake. Would anyone do that today?
July 2, 2014 -- Updated 1601 GMT (0001 HKT)
Wendy Townsend says Jamaica sold two protected islands to China for a huge seaport, which could kill off a rare iguana and hurt ecotourism.
ADVERTISEMENT