Midwest drought affecting national food production

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by KHOU.com Staff and Dan Bewley

khou.com

Posted on July 7, 2012 at 6:28 PM

Updated Saturday, Jul 7 at 6:35 PM

HOUSTON—The extreme heat and drought conditions in the Midwest is going to affect the price of food here in Houston.

From corn flakes to corn syrup—even corn-fed chicken, pork and beef—grocery prices are expected to rise.

J.D. Denton has raised cattle in southeast Oklahoma since the 1960s. Now, his part of the state is in the middle of a drought.

Normally, 16 inches of rain falls in the spring. This year, there have been four inches.

Denton’s ranch in Corrine shows the fallout—a brown pasture would typically be a lush green, trees are slowly dying and ponds hold barely six inches of water.

"Well, I’m glad they have that much," said Denton.

Denton says the drought has forced him to use feeding troughs in the summer, something he’s hardly had to do in the past and that’s just the beginning.

"It means that have had to sell part of my capital assets to stay in business. I don’t like to do that. It’s either that or watch the animals die," said Denton.

"It hurts everybody in this area. With less beef, beef prices are going to be higher," said Tom Smith with the OSU extension office in Pushmataha County.

He says the drought is taking its toll on farmers and ranchers.

"That means less forage production, thinner cows, less grass for them to eat, lower reproduction from those cows, less hay produced in this area," said Smith.

This is the driest southeast Oklahoma has been since they started keeping records in 1921 and Smith says the closer you get to Texas and Arkansas the worse it gets.

Smith says ranchers like Denton have tried everything and all that’s left to do now is hope for rain.

"They’re predicting rain for early next week. We’re praying it comes. Just as simple as that, hoping and hanging on and praying for rain," said Smith.

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