Woe and opportunity: Tales of historic drought

By David Mercer

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Aug. 11 2012 11:31 p.m. MDT

He has wells on his property, too. He spent $25,000 to have the second one drilled in July because the first was producing half its normal amount of water. He connected the two, and they still aren't producing enough to keep his corn and soybeans irrigated. He left about two-fifths of his 1,700 acres unplanted this year, and he's been pumping water onto the rest, spending $22,000 a month for fuel.

"If I run out of water, they'll be dead in two weeks," he said.

— Charles Bartels in Little Rock, Ark.

CASHING IN

For some, the drought will likely be a money-maker — especially those who fall outside the dry-weather zone.

One of those farmers is Harlan Anderson. The rainfall on his 800-acre farm near Cokato in southern Minnesota has been normal, maybe a bit more. That means he'll have alfalfa, corn and soybeans to sell when others don't, and he'll benefit from rising prices.

But demonstrating what he described as his Scandinavian sense of reserve, Anderson said he feels a little guilty when talking about how he expects to profit from the misfortune of other farmers in the Upper Midwest.

"My projection is that our gross profits for the year will double," Anderson said. "The drought has certainly been good to me. Don't say that too loud."

He's started getting frequent calls in recent weeks from livestock farmers around the country. Some usually grow their own feed, while others buy it from farmers like Anderson. All are starting to worry about their supply.

"Looking ahead, they're trying to decide if there's a sufficient supply of feed, can they afford it and are they going to keep feeding their dairy cow or their horse — or are they going to shoot them?" Anderson said.

— Patrick Condon in Minneapolis

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