Drought causing food prices to rise?

August 30, 2011 3:07:32 AM PDT
The dry weather is making it tough for ranchers, and their plight could cost you. Many aren't able to grow hay to feed their livestock.

Typically, Dick Bumstead says his hay barn is stacked to the ceiling. But this year, there is no hay. All that's available are stacks from last year.

Typically in August, Bumstead would be cutting hay on his 1500-acre ranch.

"This is absolutely the worst it's been," he said.

But there's none to cut or sell.

"We're a producer to horse farms, the feed stores and we've had to terminate for this year delivering to those people," Bumstead said.

What he's stacking in his barn is actually rice straw, remnants from rice farms usually burned. It's all he can get to feed his cattle.

"It's day by day," he said.

A trip around the ranch shows the ripple effects of a drought unlike any he's seen.

"The pastures out there are just drying up, there's no nourishment in the grass that's out there," Bumstead said.

Bumstead has sold more than half his cattle. The ones left are thin and he can see the stress.

"It's just tough, it's financial and emotional at the same time. We've probably got $500,000 to $750,000 impact of loss of sales," he said.

He's laid off all but one employee. Fertilizing is a $10,000 gamble when rain is in the forecast.

"Because of the lack of rain and heat it burned the grass," Bumstead said.

Grass so dry and cracked you can fit your hand in it.

The list of problems is just at one ranch but Bumstead says everyone will pay the price.

"This goes right down the food chain, into the grocery store and the people in Houston who live in the condos," he said.

As we finished our tour, he showed us his well that only pumps sand now and a stagnant drainage ditch; even his honeybees have lost some of their buzz. He's expecting one fourth normal production.

"We won't recover for two years," Bumstead said.

He says they could use big rain after big rain, but at this point, he said he's willing to take anything he can get.

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