The worst drought to hit the United States in half a century is having dramatic effects on crop and livestock production, President Obama said in a White House briefing Tuesday, in which he called on Congress to pass a Farm Bill that includes more disaster aid for farmers.
At a meeting with the White House Rural Council, Obama introduced a swathe of measures to try to mitigate some of the effects of the drought, including nearly $30m in aid to help struggling crop and livestock farmers.
“It is a historic drought, and it’s having a profound impact on farmers and ranchers all across many states,” Obama said.
According to the latest weekly crop progress report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), half of the nation’s corn crop was in poor condition as of August 5, as well as 39% of the soybean crop. About 60% of all US farmland is estimated to be affected.
Obama said that he hoped members of Congress returning to rural constituencies during the summer recess would gain a better understanding of the urgency of the situation and pass the Farm Bill immediately upon their return.
“Congress needs to pass a farm bill that will not only provide important disaster relief tools, but also make necessary reforms and give farmers the certainty that they deserve,” he said. “That’s the single-best way that we can help rural communities both in the short term, but also in the long term. And we’ve already seen some good bipartisan work done in the Senate.”
The full extent to which the drought will impact food prices is not yet known, the USDA said in its latest food price outlook , but it expects higher prices across the board. Among the food products likely to be most strongly affected are meats – with poultry predicted to be the first to reflect the impact of higher feed costs – dairy products, and fats and oils, particularly soybean oil.
The USDA says that most price impacts at retail are likely to be felt in 2013, if not sooner.
Click here for more information on the administration’s drought response.