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Senators direct US farmers to 'hold on and pray' as severe drought parches the Midwest

Republican Sens. Eric Schmitt and Markwayne Mullin urge the USDA to provide immediate assistance to Midwest farmers facing a historic drought season that could impact food prices.

Ranchers and farmers in the Midwest are being told to "hold on and pray" as they await emergency relief amid one of the worst droughts the agricultural industry has seen since the Dust Bowl.

"My family's been raising cattle in Oklahoma since the late 1830s, and so we kind of know how to handle it. But to have two seasons this severe is tough," Sen. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., told Fox News Digital on Tuesday.

"Farmers and the agricultural industry continue to persist through all kinds of difficult times, and Missouri's farmers are made of some of the toughest stuff," Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., also told Fox News Digital. "I’m intent on doing what I can here in the Senate in order to support Missouri farmers and ranchers."

This week, Sen. Schmitt along with members of the Missouri GOP delegation penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary, urging them to explore all available options to immediately open Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for emergency haying.


A lack of rain across the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest has resulted in more than 80% of Missourians experiencing drought conditions, with over half the state in "severe drought" status and 20% seeing an "extreme drought."

In Oklahoma, Sen. Mullin explained that about 700,000 residents are affected by the drought. The western part of the Sooner State has reportedly seen less rain than the east, shrinking their grazing yield for the livestock.

"We're about 25% of what our hay yield should be," Mullin said. "It's affected us really hard, which is going to affect cattle prices, which is going to affect our plate prices, too."

The only reason Americans haven’t seen a Dust Bowl like the late 1920s to 30s, the Oklahoma senator pointed out, is because of modern advancements in farming practices.

"Just about six weeks ago, we had drier conditions than we did, actually, during the Dust Bowl," Mullin added. "When I was out there, we actually had severe dust storms, stuff that I hadn’t even experienced… our agricultural practices are much different, and otherwise, we'd be having the same topsoil being stripped off and being blown across the United States."

After speaking to ranchers in Missouri, Sen. Schmitt claimed many are now faced with the decision to sell parts of their herds or risk watching them starve.

"My staff and I have had discussions with farmers in the driest parts of Missouri, and they have told us that due to the drought and lack of available hay, they have been cutting down trees on their farm that the cattle are allowed to eat so they can have some type of forage," Schmitt said.

Mullin himself has had to sell 80% of the herd on his fourth-generation farm. The senator even sought advice from his 76-year-old father, who admitted to some "tough summers," but not witnessing a drought event like this.


"We've been losing farmers and ranchers for years because it's almost impossible to actually make a living like my family has in the past," Mullin said. "I'll tell you, I couldn't make a living on the place right now."

There’s "no doubt," from either senator, that if farmers don’t get immediate relief, there will be an impact on local and national food supply chains.

"Right now we are seeing feeder cattle prices hit record highs, and it is definitely going to have an impact on consumers down the line when they buy food at the grocery store. Farmers and ranchers have been hit by record energy prices under this Administration," Schmitt noted, "and unnecessary rules and regulations that prevent relief should be suspended to prevent more pain."

"Food prices are going to have to go up," Mullin warned. "Anything else that we're putting there from our sugars to many of our grains, including our corn, it's just supply and demand... out in the fields where hogs and chickens are more confined… they're still going to be affected because at that point, your grain crop costs are going to go up to feed them and your water price is going to go up, too."

But there’s one protein that may get the biggest price spike: beef.

"Once you sell what you have, you kind of limit your supply and that's going to cause this to happen. All us farmers, ranchers, we see the bottleneck is about ready to break," Mullin said.

The USDA stated it will release CRP land after July 15, but Schmitt stressed that every day farmers have to wait, pastures become more dry.

"USDA has the letter and says they will be trying to get us a response as quickly as possible," the Missouri senator said. "I hope that USDA opens the CRP lands as soon as possible. With the emergency measures the state of Missouri was able to get started, our farmers are getting some relief, but they deserve more."


Sen. Mullin told his fellow ranchers to hunker down and have faith.

"Hold on and pray. This is a season we're in, and we'll eventually come out of this. Everything we go through is a cycle. And I don't know how long this cycle is going to be, but we're in it right now and we'll adapt," Mullin said. "One thing that's always happened is farmers and ranchers have always adapted."


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