The drought has Missouri cattle ranchers struggling to feed their livestock.
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The drought has Missouri cattle ranchers struggling to feed their livestock.

Date: September 11, 2012
By: Katherine Kreider
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Committee members heard a tearful testimony from cattle ranchers on Tuesday, begging for aid from the drought to help keep their businesses alive.

In a House Agriculture Policy Committee meeting, Missouri farmers addressed their grievances toward the recent drought.

The drought caused hay prices in Missouri to skyrocket up to 85 dollars per bale, a price very few cattle ranchers can afford. Without the adequate amount of resources from local producers, cattle farmers will not be able to keep their cows healthy enough for sale.

Wendy Cantrell of the Miller County Regional Stockyard gave her testimony, informing the committee of the failing livestock business.

"Very few people know what you all are talking about, they just don't have a clue," Cantrell said. "They come in to me and they're 60 years old and they have tears in their eyes and they say 'I've gotta sell, I have no other choice, I've gotta sell.'"

Many legislators have been worried about the production of soybeans and corn due to the drought, focusing less attention on the business of selling livestock.

With the pressure to produce a higher yield, Missouri farmers have been over-plowing their wheat and soybean fields, shrinking grazing land for cattle.

Yet the corn and soybean crop is not failing as poorly as some expected. Farmers in Southeast and Northwest Missouri have produced a higher yield of corn than previously thought. With the recent rain, soybean farmers will only lose about 10 bushels per acre.

About 80 percent of all corn and soybean crops statewide are insured. Recent legislation allows farmers to apply for a cost-share program to get water for their crops.

Cattle ranchers are not eligible to receive these benefits.

"If you talk to someone who isn't involved in farming very much what farming is, the first impression is of a tractor, a combine or something in grain farming," said House Agriculture Policy Committee Chair Tom Loehner. "You hardly ever hear about the cattle farmers or the hog farmers, it's all about the grain."

Lack of attention toward cattle ranchers is one of the largest problems facing their businesses. Without the help of state funding, the livestock business in Missouri may soon reach its end.

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