Agriculture
6:44 am
Wed August 28, 2013

Report: Farmers Should Have Done More To Protect Against Drought

Farmers across the country received more than $17 billion in federal crop insurance payouts after last year’s drought. A report released  by an environmental group blames farmers for not doing enough to shield the soil against the heat.  

Map from July 31, 2012
Map from July 31, 2012
Credit U.S. Drought Monitor

The Natural Resources Defense Council says farmers could have greatly reduced losses, if they had been working to improve soil health. The NRDC suggests that planting certain grasses and legumes, and implementing a set of soil conservation practices, could nearly drought-proof fields. That would save farmers a lot of headache and taxpayers a lot of money   

Many farmers, though, aren’t exactly sold on the report’s findings.

State of Illinois 2012 Drought Report

Doug Wilson is a farmer in Livingston County Illinois, which had the highest crop insurance payout in the nation.

Map from August 20, 2013
Map from August 20, 2013
Credit U.S. Drought Monitor

He says it would have been hard for those practices to fend off last year’s extreme heat and dryness.  He paraphrased former President Dwight Eisenhower when reacting to the report:

“It’s a lot easier to farm with a pencil from a thousand miles away than it is to actually have your hand on the plow.”

Bill Wheelhouse is a reporter with Harvest Public Media

The U.S. Drought Monitor is produced in partnership between the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.