Our view: Drought’s impact deep

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so the saying goes.

However, what happens on the farm doesn’t stay on the farm.

It reverberates across the land.

When times are good, such as last year, farmers deliver bumper crops to market, provide a plentiful food supply to consumers, earn a tidy profit, and spend their money in the community.

When times aren’t so good, the ripple effect swings from positive to negative.

Drought’s dry, hot, crackling, dusty impact is here, and it will affect most Illinoisans.

Fewer crops produced means higher feed costs for livestock and higher food prices across the board for humans. Fewer agri-dollars will flow through the community. Farm operators will suffer financial stress.

Statistics from the Illinois Department of Agriculture offer slight solace for northwestern Illinois. Our region’s topsoil is only 71 percent very short, better than the statewide average of 80 percent very short, and the bone-dry averages in southeastern and southwestern Illinois of 94 percent and 97 percent very short.

Spotty showers haven’t been enough to help corn and soybean conditions. Corn statewide was 66 percent poor or very poor as of Sunday; soybeans were 49 percent poor or very poor.

Some Illinois farmers down south already mowed down their stunted cornfields or cut the stalks for silage.

According to the Illinois Farm Bureau’s FarmWeek publication, the 2012 drought has surpassed the 1988 drought in terms of scale. Nationally, the massive dry spell has exceeded the 1956 drought.

Some farmers will be cushioned by the crop insurance they chose to buy. State ag officials spoke last week of their plans to offer financial assistance.

Such policies and programs offer a safety net as Illinois and the Midwest waits for the heavens to open and the rain to fall.

Here’s another saying: If you eat, thank a farmer.

Amid the drought, it might not hurt to say a little prayer for that farmer, too.

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