U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.)
In the midst of one of the worst droughts to hit our state in recent history, the Democrat leadership in the Senate made the incredibly poor decision to leave Washington for the August work period before taking up a critical disaster relief package that would have helped farmers, ranchers and families across Missouri — leaving our nation’s producers with greater uncertainty while trying to recover from extreme weather conditions.
This drought has taken a devastating toll on agriculture, which is a key economic driver in Missouri and nationwide. Agriculture supports some 16 million jobs across America, and Missouri has the second highest number of farms of any state and is the second highest state for cow-calf operations
While agriculture is a business of significant risk, farmers and ranchers have worked hard to learn and develop methods to manage this risk. This includes investing in technologies to defend against drought and disease in order to produce more with less.
The families who own and run these farms and ranches represent less than 2 percent of America’s population, but they raise enough food and fiber to feed the nation and a lot of the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, some circumstances cannot be planned for, nor can they be managed without help. This is the worst and widest reaching drought to grip the United States in decades, and it isn’t over.
At the end of July, all of Missouri’s counties were designated a state of “severe” to “exceptional” drought — representing the worst level of drought possible. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently added 218 counties from 12 drought-stricken states to its list of natural disaster areas, bringing the overall total to 1,584 counties in 32 states — more than half of all the counties nationwide.
According to the USDA’s crop report, half of the nation’s corn crop is now in rated in the worst condition, of “poor” to “very poor,” with Missouri topping the list as one of the hardest hit states. Meanwhile, approximately 73 percent of the domestic cattle inventory nationwide is located in an area that has been impacted by this drought, and 59 percent of America’s and 99 percent of Missouri’s pasture and rangeland is in “poor” to “very poor” condition, compared to 38 percent a year ago.
I’ve talked to many livestock producers who are being forced to decide whether to continue to feed their livestock or liquidate their herds. For the few that have been able to put up hay, they are already taking it back out of the barn to feed — well before the normal feeding time in the winter months.
Undoubtedly, the best solution to assist our farmers and ranchers would be for Congress to pass a long-term Farm Bill that includes funding for these disaster programs — a solution that I have repeatedly called for, and one that I will continue to call for when Congress returns in September. I voted for the Senate bill, and the House will take up a long-term bill as soon as possible.
Without these key disaster relief programs, farm families are left with few options to make it through this drought. The decision made by the Senate majority to leave Washington before passing much-needed disaster assistance is shameful and irresponsible. The House and Senate left Washington without adjourning, and the Senate could still figure out how to pass the bill and respond to this disaster now.
Roy Blunt, a Republican, is a senator from Missouri.