2012 Drought Relief Arrives For Farmers

Northwest Arkansas - Livestock producers hit hard by the 2012 drought are getting some relief in Benton and Washington Counties.

"A farmer, he depends on mother nature," says Gary Proctor. "Whatever mother nature throws at you, you've got to be prepared for it."

Two years ago, Arkansas experienced one of the worst droughts on record, says Ted Collins, Executive Director of the Farm Service Agency in Benton and Washington Counties.

'There was no hay, no pasture here," he says. "Producers were liquidating and selling early."

Proctor says to make matters worse, there was no farm bill in place to provide a safety net for livestock producers.

"We was actually just kinda out on our own so to speak," he says. "(We were) Just hanging out on a limb."

Proctor's Circle P Cattle survived by selling off some of the herd, but the farm is still seeing effects.

"They didn't breed back like they should have," he says. "It killed so much grass, and we've been putting out establishing new grass for the last 2 years, and that gets pretty expensive."

The 2014 Farm Bill made the Livestock Forage Disaster Program permanent. The program compensates farmers for grazing losses, and Collins' office is booked through June to meet with farmers retroactively.

"It just helps them recoup those losses and make it more sustainable and affordable," Collins says. "Livestock numbers are the lowest they've been in the United States since probably the 1940's."

Proctor says that's why we're seeing higher cattle prices, and the help may be just in time. After rain Thursday, his fields looks lush, but he says the hay crop is only around 30 percent. He warns if we don't get more rain in the next 7 to 10 days, it could mean trouble this year too.

"We may be taking that money and buying more hay with it," he says. "I just hope we don't have another severe drought this year. Our weather pattern has changed quite a bit, and there's no way of guessing what the weather's gonna do from one day till the next."

The sign-up runs through January 30, 2015.

"It's busy," he says. "We have trouble even returning phone calls, but if you need more information call the FSA office at 521-4520."

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